Lanoe George Hawker VC DSO

b. 30/12/1890 Longparish, Hampshire. d. 23/11/1916 Bapaume, France.

Lanoe George Hawker (1890-1916) was born on 30th December 1890 at “Homecroft”, in the village of Longparish, Hampshire. He was one of six children born to Lieutenant Harry C Hawker RN, and his wife Julia Gordon (nee Lanoe). Early in life, his father lost his left eye in an accident in Egypt, and then while his parents were away at this sad event, Lanoe contracted pneumonia, then a potential killer disease in pre-antibioitic days.

Lanoe G Hawker VC DSO

Fortunately, he made a complete recovery, and he also developed extremely quickly, being able to talk from the age of six months. He enjoyed school greatly due to his enquiring mind. At the age of 9, his father left to fight in the Anglo Boer War with the Australian Light Horse and both Lanoe and his brother Tyrrel were whisked off to continue their education in Geneva, Switzerland. They were there for two years before he returned to England for his further education at Stubbington House, a school on the Solent where boys were prepared for entry into the Royal Navy. He was nominated for this service in March 1905 by Prince Louis of Battenberg, father of Lord Louis Mountbatten, and the young Lanoe entered the Dartmouth Naval College in July 1905. Sadly, it was short-lived as a breathing difficulty put strain on his heart caused him to leave. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Boxwood Court in Hereford, where he broke his arm in a riding accident.

Due to the impending onset of the Great War, Lanoe decided to attempt to enter the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. He stayed with his brother at the house of a tutor in Cricklewood for the purpose. Lanoe was beginning, however, to become interested in flight. He was successful in entering Woolwich in February 1910 and was rewarded with the gift of a Triumph motorcycle. Four months later both the Hawker brothers had joined the Royal Aero Club. On a trip to Hendon, Lanoe made his first flight in one of Horatio Barber’s Valkyrie aircraft.

Hawker borrowed £50 and decided to learn to fly at the Barber School at Hendon using the Valkyrie machines. Meanwhile, at Woolwich, he had received a Second Lieutenant’s commission in the Royal Engineers in July 1911, being posted immediately to the School of Engineering at Chatham. This was tempered by the fact his flying training stopped when Barber closed the school. It was a sad time in his life, as his father was killed in a riding accident, and also a marriage proposal he made to Beatrice Bayly, a friend’s sister, was turned down at the end of 1913.

He was then posted to Ireland with the Royal Engineers, but was making frequent requests to join the Central Flying School, and was overjoyed when he was posteed to Upavon on 1st August 1914 – three days before the declaration of war on Germany. On 3rd October, he secured his Royal Aero Club Certificate which qualified as a military pilot, and was posted to No 6 Squadron at Farnborough. On October 8th, acting as observer to Captain Marsh, Lanoe was involved in his first war sortie. On 22nd April 1915, he was involved in an attack on the airship sheds at Controde following the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. He completed his bombing raid and showed great skill in getting his stricken aircraft back to base. He was rewarded with the award of the DSO and promotion to Flight Commander.

During the Second Battle of Ypres, Hawker was wounded in the foot by ground fire. For the remainder of the battle he had to be carried to and from his aircraft, but refused to be grounded until the fight was over. Following an initial air victory in June, on 25 July 1915 when on patrol over Passchendaele, Captain Hawker attacked three German aircraft in succession, flying Bristol Scout C, serial No. 1611. The first, after he had emptied a complete drum of bullets from his aircraft’s single Lewis machine gun into it, went spinning down. The second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third – an Albatros C.I of FA 3– which he attacked at a height of about 10,000 feet, burst into flames and crashed. (Pilot Oberleutnant Uebelacker and observer Hauptmann Roser were both killed.) For this feat he was awarded the Victoria Cross. This particular sortie was just one of the many which Captain Hawker undertook during almost a year of constant operational flying and fighting. He claimed at least 3 more victories in August 1915, either in the Scout or flying an F.E.2.

He flew through the summer of 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, regularly involved in dogfights as part of No 24 Squadron. Sadly during the winter of that year, Hawker’s luck would run out.

On 23rd November 1916, while flying a DH-2 (Serial No. 5964), Hawker left Bertangles Aerodrome at 1300 hours as part of ‘A’ Flight, led by Capt J. O. Andrews and including Lt (later AVM) R.H.M.S Saundby. Andrews led the flight in an attack on two German aircraft over Achiet. Spotting a larger flight of German aircraft above, Andrews was about to break off the attack, but spotted Hawker diving to attack. Andrews and Saundby followed him to back him up in his fight; Andrews drove off one of the Germans attacking Hawker, then took bullets in his engine and glided out of the fight under Saundby’s covering fire. Losing contact with the other DH-2’s, Hawker began a lengthy dog-fight with an Albatros D.II flown by Leutnant Manfred von Richthofen of Jasta 2. The Albatross was faster than the DH2, more powerful and more heavily armed. Richthofen fired 900 rounds during the running battle. Running low on fuel, Hawker eventually broke away from the combat and attempted to return to Allied lines. The Red Baron’s guns jammed 50 yards from the lines, but a bullet from his last burst struck Hawker in the back of his head, killing him instantly. His plane spun from 1,000 feet and crashed 200 metres (218 yards) east of Luisenhof Farm, just south of Bapaume on the Flers Road, becoming the German ace’s 11th victim.

Hawker has no known grave, and he was commemorated on the Arras Flying Memorial, and a memorial was placed on the site of his crash. Hawker’s medals were held by his family following his death, when in 1940, Hawker’s original VC was lost when the Hawker family belongings were left behind after the fall of France. On their return after the Second World War, they found that their possessions, including the VC, had been stolen. A replacement was issued to Hawker’s brother on 3rd February 1960, and is now held by the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon.





Kevin Brazier – Crash Site Memorial to Lanoe Hawker VC DSO.