FRANCIS ALAN HOLLIS HAWKSLEY HILL
This post was written by Victoria Doran.
Alan Hawksley Hill is another of the men that we only know of from the family grave stone in St Bridget’s churchyard, West Kirby. He was a Corporal in the Machine Gun Corps who died during the Battle of the Somme.
Hawksley Hill family grave stone at St Bridget, West Kirby
Francis Alan Hollis Hawksley Hill was born in the autumn of 1891 in Liverpool, the middle of the 3 children of Edward Hawksley Hill (1860-1897) and Charlotte Emily Green (1862-1957). We know from various records that he was generally known as Alan Hawksley Hill, so he will be referred to as Alan from now on.
The Hill family have been traced back in Liverpool to Alan’s great great grandfather, Benjamin Hill (1744-1804) who was a manufacturer of pearl ash and potash. The Hill family, in several branches, continued to manufacture chemicals of various sorts in Liverpool, being dry salters and vitriol manufacturers amongst other descriptions found. They were generally quite prosperous without being extremely wealthy, but were firmly established in the middle classes by the middle of the Victorian era.
It was Alan’s grandfather, baptised plain William Hill (1815-1861), who added the ‘Hawksley’ to the name about 1852. It was the version he used when he married Margaret Hollis Williams (1835-1902) (daughter of a Welsh farmer) on 30 September 1852 in West Derby registration district. No source for ‘Hawksley’ has been found. All his children were registered as ‘Hawksley Hill’ and they all continued using the double barrelled surname, though the rest of the Hill family branches remained as plain ‘Hill’.
Alan’s father was the youngest of William and Margaret’s 5 children and did not follow in the family firm. He became a book keeper and seems to have slid slightly down the social scale, leaving only £181 when he died at 8 Westbourne Grove, West Kirby in January 1897. Charlotte Emily was left to manage with 3 children under the age of 10.
It is not known exactly when the family lived in West Kirby, but Alan’s younger brother, Reginald Hollis Hawksley Hill (1894-1983) was born in West Kirby on 26 April 1894 and they were still there at the beginning of 1897. Note that now the family is effectively using a triple barrelled surname as Alan and his siblings are all officially ‘Hollis Hawksley Hill’, though they often just used ‘Hill’.
It is not known how Charlotte Emily managed as she has not been found at either the 1901 or 1911 censuses. She was remarried in the summer of 1915 to the recently widowed John Daniel MacGregor (1845-1919), but was widowed again after 4 years. As he had children by his long first marriage, she may not have inherited the nearly £700 that he left.
Charlotte Emily Green was the daughter of Robert Molyneux Green (1824-1878) and Charlotte McQuie (1831-1931). Robert was an Examining Officer for the Customs & Excise and was able to employ a servant. His father, James Green (1792-1861) was quite a wealthy coal agent in Knowsley, but he had a large family, so none will have inherited very much. Charlotte McQuie’s father, Peter Robinson McQuie (1793-1875) was an even wealthier merchant, but again with a large family. At least one of his sons was involved in the chemical industry, and probably the Hills met the Greens by this connection. They certainly mixed socially as Edward Hawksley Hill’s brother, Andrew Hawksley Hill (1856-1895) married Charlotte Emily’s oldest sister, Katherine Green (1854-1941). So Alan and his siblings were doubly cousins to Andrew and Katherine’s 5 offspring.
After Edward’s untimely death, it was his long widowed mother Charlotte (McQuie) Green who stepped in to assist. At the 1901 census she was looking after Alan and his 2 siblings as well as their cousin Margaret Hawksley Hill (Andrew and Katherine’s eldest daughter). Alan and his older sister Dorothy Hollis Hawksley Hill (1888-1968) have not been found at the 1911 census, but their brother Reginald remained with his grandmother.
We know from his medal card that Alan originally joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private 2530. It is not known for certain what battalion he joined.
Alan’s brother Reginald joined the Liverpool Scottish Territorial Battalion (10th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment) in June 1914 as private 2945. Also his cousin Geoffrey Hawksley Hill (1896-1915), who died at the Battle of Hooge in June 1915, was Private 3299 in the Liverpool Scottish. Geoffrey was the son of another of Edward Hawksley Hill’s brothers, William Frederick Hawksley Hill (1858-1929).
It seems probable that Alan joined the Liverpool Scottish before the war as a Territorial. This would have meant that he was called up for active service when war was declared, however the Liverpool Scottish original battalion (1/10th) went to France in November 1914, leaving those who could not, at that time, serve overseas to form the 2/10th battalion, which was a training battalion.
King’s Liverpool Regiment cap badge
Whatever battalion he joined, he was certainly one of the earlier men to enlist, as he had to have completed his training by the end of February 1915.
Originally machine gunners were in small units in each infantry battalion, but in October 1915 the Machine Gun Corps was formed, removing them from regiments and providing larger units at Brigade and Divisional level. Alan was posted to the 165th Company which was formed on 26 February 1916. Generally the Machine Gun Corps only took really efficient soldiers, so it was not particularly popular with the staff officers of the infantry regiments.
Machine Gun Corps cap badge
The 165th Company was part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division. They fought at the Battles of Guillemont and Givenchy in early September 1916 and then in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette from 15 to 22 September. This was the third and final phase of the Somme Offensive, and one of its objectives was to take Morval. Breakthrough was not achieved but considerable (by the Battle of the Somme standards) ground was gained.
The attack was resumed on 25 September as the Battle of Morval.
Battle of Morval on 25 September 1916 from Wikipedia
Alan was killed in action on the first day. He was 24 years old.
He was buried immediately nearby, and later reburied at the A.I.F Burial Ground at Flers. This was originally for Australian Infantry war dead, but later other soldiers were reburied there as well.
A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers
He is also commemorated on his father’s grave stone at St Bridget, West Kirby and in St Mary the Virgin, Waterloo. It is also probable that he is the A Hill recorded on the Roll of Honour at Liverpool Town Hall, on the Waterloo and Seaforth Civic Memorial and also on the Chapel Street Congregational Church memorial at Southport.
Alan was awarded the 15 Star, Victory and British War medals.
His brother Reginald proved unfit and was discharged from the army on 27 Feb 1915. Despite this he lived to the great age of 89.
Two of Alan’s cousins also died, Geoffrey Hawksley Hill at the Battle of Hooge in 1915 and his double cousin, son of Andrew Hawksley Hill, Arthur Hawksley Hill (1891-1918) who died on the Somme in April 1918.
Birth: Oct 1891 at Liverpool
Death: 25 Sep 1916 near Morval, Somme, Picardie, France; killed in action
Addresses: 17 Onslow Road, Fairfield, Lancashire (92); 8 Westbourne Grove, West Kirby (97); 7 Liverpool Road, Birkdale, Lancashire (01)
Occupation : not known
Units: King’s Liverpool Regiment; 165th Company, Machine Gun Corps
Numbers and Ranks: 2530 Private; 22415 Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: France : A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers, Somme, Picardie; St Mary the Virgin Church, Waterloo, St Bridget churchyard, West Kirby
Sources: CWGC, SDGW, MC, Census: 01, PR, RSE, probate, PR