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Frank Hawes

Ordinary Seaman Frank Hawes, C/JX 248318, H.M.S. Vimiera, Royal Navy.

Frank Hawes was born in Ossett on the 30th June 1913, the second son and youngest child of licensed victualler Albert George Hawes of Prospect Road, Ossett and confectioner, Ellen Miranda Thomas, of 22, Wilson Wood Street, Batley Carr, who married at the Holy Trinity Church, Batley Carr on the 17th May 1905. Albert George Hawes was born in Kent in 1878, and Ellen Miranda was born in 1873. Albert’s late father, James, was also a licensed victualler.

The Hawes family were licensees of the Coopers’ Arms, Ossett between 1901 and 1924, with Albert George Hawes holding the licence first between 1905 - 1908 and then between 1915- 1924. In 1911, the couple were living at a Prospect Road, Ossett address, most probably, the Cooper’s Arms where we know Frank Hawes' father, Albert George was the licensee and Miranda was assisting in the business. The couple had two children by this time, Norah and George Hawes. We know that Frank Hawes was educated Ossett Grammar School and his name is displayed on the school WW2 Memorial.

In the summer of 1936, Frank Hawes married Margaret Moody, who had been born in the Barnsley area in 1911, in the Dewsbury area. By September 1939, Frank, aged 26 years, and Margaret, aged 28 years were living at 103, London Road, Wallington, Surrey. A third name is redacted, but this was probably their only child, Ann C. Hawes, born in early 1938 in Wallington.

Following the tragic death of her husband, Margaret married Thomas M. Hay in Sheffield in Spring 1945. The couple do not appear to have had any children.

It is likely that Frank Hawes had joined the Royal Navy in the years before WW2 started, and he was serving on the British V-Class destroyer H.M.S. 'Vimiera' in early 1942. The H.M.S. 'Vimiera' had been built in 1918 at the Swan Hunter shipyard at Wallsend, Tyne and Wear and was converted to an escort destroyer (WAIR) with an enhanced anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capability as part of the naval rearmament programme preceding the outbreak of war in September 1939. In January 1940 she joined the Nore Command for coastal convoy escort duty in the North Sea and English Channel. Her company was formed largely of men from the Clyde Division of the Royal Naval Reserve, H.M.S. 'Graham.' She saw action around Boulogne and Calais, when the 'Vimiera' sustained substantial damage. She was taken into repair on the 25th May 1940, and so was not involved in the evacuation from Dunkirk.

After repairs, 'Vimiera' returned to convoy defence and patrol in the North Sea. In 1941 she shot down at least three planes attacking the convoys. On the 6th August 1941, while escorting Convoy F.S 559, eight of the convoy ships ran aground on the Haisborough Sands off the Norfolk Coast and 'Vimiera' distinguished herself by rescuing many of the seamen. In December 1941 she was adopted by the civil community of Sandbach, Cheshire, following a successful Warship Week National Savings Campaign. In January 1942, HMS Vimiera was sunk by a mine in the Thames estuary on the southern edge of the swept channel (185 QZS) between East Spile Buoy and J Buoy while escorting east coast convoy FS.93 from Rosyth to Sheerness with the loss of 93 hands with 34 survivors.

The captain of H.M.S. 'Vimiera', Lt. Cdr. Angus A Mackenzie RNR (1905-75) survived the disaster and his daughter said:

"He suffered agonies over Vimiera, he felt he lived while younger men died. He was bending over on the bridge patting Andy his Scottish Terrier and he reckoned that was why he was blown clear. My mother made him take Andy to sea because the dog had a bad temper and was forever biting us."

The Board of Enquiry into the loss of H.M.S. 'Vimiera' was held on the 29 January in the Billiard Room of HMS Wildfire, the shore base at Sheerness, and most of the survivors were required to give evidence along with the C.O.s of nearby ships who observed the explosion. The enquiry focused on the time of the explosion and the position of H.M.S. 'Vimiera' when the explosion occurred and the height of the column of water.

Her bell was salvaged after the war and presented to H.M.S. 'Graham' in 1956 by her first wartime C.O., Captain R.B.N. Hicks DSO, as a memorial to the men who died, but appears to have been removed prior to the closing of HMS Graham in 1993.1

HMS Vimiera

Above: H.M.S. 'Vimiera' in heavy seas 1941.

Frank Hawes died on the 9th January 1942, aged 28 years, in the loss of H.M.S 'Vimiera' and is remembered Panel Reference 57. 3. on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Chatham, Kent. After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided.

An Admiralty committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain - Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth - should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable naval form, an obelisk, which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, who had already carried out a considerable amount of work for the Commission, with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Chatham Naval Memorial was unveiled by the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII) on 26 April 1924.

After the Second World War it was decided that the naval memorials should be extended to provide space for commemorating the naval dead without graves of that war, but since the three sites were dissimilar, a different architectural treatment was required for each. The architect for the Second World War extension at Chatham was Sir Edward Maufe (who also designed the Air Forces memorial at Runnymede) and the additional sculpture was by Charles Wheeler and William McMillan. The Extension was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh on 15 October 1952.

Chatham Naval Memorial commemorates 8,517 sailors of the First World War and 10,098 of the Second World War.


1. H.M.S. 'Vimiera'

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site