Among the thousands of men who fought in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in the Great War were many recent émigrés from the UK, including young Londoners who had gone out to the Dominion in the years before 1914. One of these was Francis Paget Hewkley, who left London for Australia in June 1912 and wound up at Gallipoli before being killed in action on the Western Front.
Hewkley was born in Stoke Newington in March 1894, the son of medical practitioner Dr Frank Hewkley and his wife Dorothy. He was still in education in 1911; he attended the Merchant Taylors’ School and served in their Officer Training Corps. He was then living with his parents and sister in a large house (with 6 servants) in Lower Seymour Street, Marylebone, W1; the next year he left all that behind to work as a clerk for the Bank of Australia in Western Australia. He was about 5’6” tall, with fair hair.
He enlisted in the AIF in late August 1914 and trained as a signaller in Melbourne. He was part of the 1st Division when it left Australia on 20 October 1914. After arriving in Egypt in November, the Division – including Hewkley – were part of the first landing at Gallipoli. Hewkley served throughout the campaign, arriving back in Egypt in January 1916. While on the peninsula, he contributed a few drawings to Charles Bean’s ‘ANZAC book‘:
In early 1916, a new 4th Division of the AIF was formed and went on the Western Front. Hewkley was one of their signallers. The Division arrived in France in June 1916 and saw its first actions in the Battle of the Somme, at Pozieres. Hewkley was by then 2nd Corporal (equivalent to lance corporal) and showed great bravery in the front line in early September 1916, for which he was awarded the Military Medal. His citation reads:
During 3rd, 4th and 5th September 2nd/Cpl Hewkley showed great gallantry and devotion to duty in mending and laying telephone lines from POZIERES to Battalions [in the Division]. During the night 3rd and 4th […] he went out 4 times and mended breaks in telephone lines under very heavy fire.
In late June 1917, the Division took part in the attack on Zonnebeke Ridge, with the signallers maintaining the communications – mending and laying lines to keep the infantry, artillery and commanders in touch.
On the first day of that attack (26 June), Hewkley – now a sergeant – was wounded by a shell fragment near ‘Tokio Ridge’ just in front of Zonnebeke (visible at the back of this photo). As he was being brought to a dressing station, he was hit by another shell (according to some reports, this shell killed his stretcher bearers) and was taken to No. 2 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Remy, where he died 8 hours later from wounds to his left shoulder and skull. He was buried in nearby Lijssenthoek military cemetery. His parent’s outlived him, their only son, and he is also commemorated on their shared headstone in Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery in South London, near their postwar home in Wickham Road, Brockley.
One of those who wrote words of comfort to Hewkley’s parents after his death was Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had apparently met Hewkley through his time spent at the Scouts’ Farm at Buckhurst Place in Kent. BP wrote:
I remember your boy so well at Buckhurst Farm, and know he was a universal favourite there. He has left behind an example of service and self-sacrifice which will be an inspiration to the Boy Scouts who knew him in carrying out their duty -as he did- at no matter what personal cost
Francis Paget Hewkley really did do his duty to the end, with great bravery even at the cost of his own life.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
Australian War Memorial records:
Red Cross Wounded and Missing records
Regimental Rogue page on Canadian medical units
Attestation papers on Lijssenthoek website