Sheffield soldier's ultimate sacrifice at Somme

A/Sgt Joseph Hawtin of the 1st Gordon Highlanders served in World War One

A/Sgt Joseph Hawtin of the 1st Gordon Highlanders served in World War One

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This rather splendid-looking gentleman is A/Sgt Joseph Hawtin of the 1st Gordon Highlanders, who died during the First World War.

His nephew Victor Hawtin has sent in some details of his life and connections with Sheffield.

A letter that Joseph Hawtin wrote to the Sheffield Telegraph about a 1914 battle he fought in

A letter that Joseph Hawtin wrote to the Sheffield Telegraph about a 1914 battle he fought in

Joseph, who was born in September 1888, joined the Gordon Highlanders aged just 14 and served in India.

Both he and his younger brother Henry were educated at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School near Dover, Kent as orphans.

Their father, Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant J Hawtin of the Royal Army Pay Corps, died in 1896.

Victor writes: “Sometime during his time of reserve service, he was employed by Sheffield Corporation Tramways.

“Recalled to the colours in 1914, he saw action at Maedelstede Farm on December 14, a well-documented encounter early in the war.

“Joseph married a Sheffield lass in July 1915. She was Emily Pryor of Meersbrook.

“Unhappily, Joe disappeared on the Somme on July 18, 1916. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the great Thiepval memorial.

“My father, Henry, born in 1890 and two years younger than Joe, was also a regular soldier, in the Royal Engineers.

“He must have visited Joe in Sheffield and met his friends as he married Gladys Pynor of Queen’s Road in 1921, a close friend of Emily.

“After he retired in 1947, having served continuously for 42 years, my parents settled in Greenhill Main Road and I finished my schooling at King Edward’s – my 12th school!”

The Commonwealth War Grave Commission records that Joseph died aged 29 and gives his wife’s address as in Croydon, now Greater London.

Joseph wrote a letter to the Sheffield Telegraph about the Maedelstede Farm battle, reproduced here.

Victor wrote this poem about his uncle.

Uncle Joe

Full five feet deep, does Joseph sleep,

His bones with shrapnel mixed?

His trusty rifle at his side

With rusty bayonet fixed.

He’s still out there, lost on the Somme,

Slain by bullet, shell or bomb.

His name’s among thousands, no one denies,

On a mighty monument, arched to the skies –

But who can say where his body lies?

He is but one of ‘Our Glorious Dead’

‘Known unto God’ as Kipling said.

He is also the uncle I never met -

Lest I forget, lest I forget.