Captain Arthur Hawkins
Born on 30th
March 1899 in Richmond, Surrey, England, Arthur Hawkins was to start his
seafaring life at the tender age of ten. In 1909, the son of a by now single
mother of limited means, he was placed aboard the training ship Exmouth
at Grays on the River Thames.
On the 1st
April 1915, during WW1 and immediately following his fifteenth birthday, he
signed on as a deck boy on his first ship. The ship was the ex-Belgian Red Star
Line vessel Northland, then being operated by White Star Line.
On 15th February 1917, by now an Ordinary Seaman, he was
onboard the White Star Line Celtic when she was badly damaged after
hitting a mine shortly after leaving Liverpool, England. She had to return to
Liverpool and the simple entry in his Discharge Book is
~ Voyage Abandoned.
war he continued to progress with his seagoing career, going from Ordinary
Seaman to Able Seaman and eventually Quartermaster. Apparently serving
exclusively with White Star Line sailing mostly from Liverpool on passenger
liners. He apparently took his Third Mates Certificate during 1922/23 and sailed
in that capacity on 2nd March 1923 on the Skipton Castle.
years later on 13th February 1928 he qualified at Liverpool, as a
‘Master of Foreign-Going Steamships’, this only thirteen years after
starting as a Deck Boy. Quite an achievement!
After qualifying as a Master, he sailed as First Mate for the next four
years. The 23rd April 1934 is the date of the last entry in his
discharge book, paying off the ship Arcwear in his capacity as First
Mate. Soon after that date, he
again sailed on the Arcwear but for the first time as Master.
his voyages as Master for a number of owners, was a voyage for a Greek owner
from Antwerp to Odessa and Sevastopol in 1937, to load munitions for China
during the Sino-Japanese war. Sometime after the outbreak of the Second World
War in 1939, he, like so many seafarers, found himself serving with the Ministry
of War Transport (MOWT). One of those commands for the MOTW was the Empire
Sunrise, which was built at J. L. Thompson’s yard in Sunderland, England,
was whilst sailing with the Empire Sunrise with a cargo of steel and
timber, in the eastbound convoy SC107, that he was torpedoed. The ship was first
hit in the early hours of 2nd November 1942, by U402 and, as she had
stayed afloat, a few hours later by U84, after which she sank. All the crew were
saved by the Rescue Ship Stockport being landed eventually in Iceland,
where the crew spent Christmas before being returned to the UK.
in early 1943 Captain Hawkins made his way back across to Atlantic, to Canada,
to take command of a new-building ship the Fort Carillon, which was then
under construction at Louzon, Canada on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec. He
was present at its launch (centre of the first photograph above) and it was
officially delivered in May 1943. Captain Hawkins was somewhat unimpressed with
the fact that the Fort Carillon was launched with steam up, as this
apparently caused damage to the boiler tubes, which necessitated a dry-docking
at Quebec to have them repaired.
leaving dry-dock at Quebec they proceeded to Montreal to load. They then made
passage (presumably in convoy) via Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and then Cape Town,
South Africa, on each occasion for bunkers, to Port Said, having first transited
the Suez Canal.
spending a month in Port Said they sailed to Haifa, Palestine, to load potash
for Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.A. proceeding back through the Suez Canal and
bunkering en-route at Durban, South Africa.
due course, sometime in 1944, Captain Hawkins took command of the newly built
ship Empire Earl, by the William Doxford & Sons Shipyard, at
Sunderland, England. He then made at least twenty-one voyages onboard the Empire
Earl, mainly from the River Thames to the now famous temporary Mulberry
harbour established at Arromanches, France, after the D-day landings of June 6th
1944. Some of those later voyages were to Antwerp the port having been just
reopened to allied shipping.
his service during the Second World War Captain Hawkins was awarded the
following Campaign Stars, Clasps and Medals: The 1939-45 Star, The Atlantic
Star, The Clasp to The Atlantic Star (France & Germany), The Africa Star,
The Italy Star and The War Medal 1939-45.
work then for the M.O.W.T. ended shortly after the end of the war in Europe in
1945. Captain Hawkins was disgusted to discover, like many other seafarers, that
after all the dangers that he had experienced, and after all his efforts for his
country, there was no offer of seagoing work anywhere to be had. He decided
there and then to try to make a new life for himself and his wife in Canada.
obtained work with a Canadian stevedoring company in Halifax, Nova Scotia and
was soon firmly established with his new company and career. Some time later,
around the time of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway he was asked by the
stevedoring company to open up an office for them in Toronto, which he did.
After living in Toronto for a few years with his wife, who had joined him from
England once he was established in Canada, he was invited to join a New York
stevedoring company, an offer that he accepted. He was to become vice-President
of the company only leaving that position in 1967/68 to return to England where
his wife died a few years later.
Arthur Hawkins, a grand old man of the sea, died in 1989 aged ninety, having had
a very happy last ten years of life with his second wife Kathleen who had shared
his pleasure at being able to go for cruises aboard the Cunard Line ship Queen
Elizabeth II and other cruise ships during those final ten years of his life.
a bad lifetime of achievements for a lad of such humble beginnings.
(Compiled, as a tribute to this
splendid man, by Geoff. Topp, his next door neighbour for the last sixteen years
of his life. October 2002)
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