Dedicated to the memory of:

Flight Lieutenant

Garth Walter Hawkins

Royal Air Force

 

Garth was born on 17th June 1942.

He perished when the Sea King Helicopter he was in crashed into the sea whilst carrying out a troop transfer.

 


 

I am Gary, the oldest of Garth’s sons and read this page from time to time. It always makes me smile.

There are some memories there for me. I was dispatched on the London/Inverness shuttle by my dad with a strange looking green thing in a bag and was told to say it was a gyro for a boat if asked by security. If they didn’t believe me than I had a number for them to call and was assured, I would be let through. I spent the day (I think it was British Aerospace) being fed coke, biscuits, and mars bars. It was all very cloak and dagger … very exciting for a 13 year old!

I also remember the break in, and several black range rovers and dodgy looking blokes turning up to search the house before we were let in. We had no idea at the time he was seconded to and working with the SAS then, not until his death.

I have also started reading the book, SeaKing Down but just can’t get to the bit that describes the crash. 40 years on, it’s still raw.

My brother and I, and our family, remain in awe of a man that was truly larger than life, he is missed every day. But he died doing a job he loved, and he will never be forgotten.

Thank you all for sharing your memories.

Gary and on behalf of my brother Robert.


The Garth Hawkins that I knew – ‘Gunner’

I only ever knew Garth professionally, or socially for the occasional evening drink in Airport Camp Mess, Belize. Garth was a Primary Forward Air Controller (PFAC) and I was one of his Army secondaries. He looked after many of them during his career; what I remember most about him was his absolute enthusiasm for his job. He loved his job. He controlled aircraft with the boyish enthusiasm of a child with a new train set, and yet he was utterly professional. He seemed to be able to will aircraft onto the target, with an absolute minimum of verbal input. What annoyed me, as I struggled to learn this skill, was that he made it all seem so easy. While I was struggling to imagine the pilot’s view from his cockpit, mixing up my rights and lefts, and even scanning the wrong sector, Garth would pick up the failing mission and turn it into success.

I also remember that he had an incredibly thick skin and seemed absolutely impervious to ‘Pongo’ jibes about ‘Crabfats’ when aircraft were late at the initiation point. He would just beam at the joker, and then proceed to dazzle us when the planes did show up.

Like many of those who learned from him, I was very sad to hear of Garth’s death. I am consoled by the fact that he was on his way, during a time of war, to do the job that he loved.


F J O’Flynn (Paddy)

At the time I met Garth I was an RAF Squadron Leader employed as a weapons trials officer in the RAF Central Tactics and Trials organisation at RAF High Wycombe. I learned soon after meeting Garth that he lived only 100 metres from me in Wokingham Berkshire – one of the coincidences of Service life.

I met Garth in 1981 at Tain Range in Scotland while running a Harrier trial using SNEB rockets against an array of tank targets. Garth arrived and set up his laser designator in an elevated position on top of his Landrover among the heather about half a mile from the target. After the first attack we all gathered in the target area to assess the damage but, during this process, we saw smoke rising from the vicinity of Garth’s Landrover. When Garth realised it was his Landrover that was burning we all set off at high speed to try to extinguish the fire but, by the time we reached the Landrover, it was burning too well and we had to restrain Garth who was intent on rescuing his business documents from the inferno. Later, we were busy organising a replacement Landrover and laser designator whilst the local fire brigade were still struggling to extinguish the burning heather when the telephone rang for Garth. It was the Thames Valley police calling to say that his house had been broken into. Much later, about 1.00am the following morning, after we had received a replacement designator via the Heathrow/Inverness shuttle and tested it, I escorted Garth out of the Inn I was staying in to the replacement Landrover on the way to his accommodation. It was drizzling and wet as we discovered the flat tyre on his Landrover followed, shortly afterwards, by the discovery that it had no spare wheel. The irrepressible Garth sat cross-legged on the tarmac and declared to us all that nothing else could go wrong that day. He was absolutely right – the trial resumed with great success due in no small part to his expertise and professionalism.

Later, whilst involved in staff work supporting the action in the Falklands, I was deeply saddened to learn that Garth had perished in a Sea King helicopter together with many others during an operation to insert them onto the islands to provide forward air control for the Harriers. A brave man with indomitable spirit. Nothing else could go wrong that day.


I met Garth while he was ‘FAC’ing in Belize in 1980 (I think) at the bar– where else? A wonderful, interesting and talented chap as the contributions show. I recall he was looking forward to retirement and either had or was going to have a pub. His loss in the Falklands came as a huge blow to me. Bizarrely I have just finished Mark Aston’s book ‘Sea King Down’ where Garth’s accident is covered.

“due in no small part to his expertise and professionalism.” sums it up well for me.

Mike.

‘Boss’ Hawkins had the distinct pleasure of taking a green, young, inexperienced, and highly nervous newly minted Senior Aircraftsman telegraphist into the jungles of Belize for a week during early 1982 (I believe – it could have been late ‘81).


Cpl Doug McCormack, Flt Lt Hawkins radio Army radio operator, had stood on a sea urchin on a ‘jolly’ (RandR flight to the islands) to the Keyes and was laid up in bed.  Flt Lt Hawkins, all 8’ of him, was asking for volunteers to take Doug’s place while he was Forward Air Controlling with a small SAS training group in the middle of nowhere.

GH – “Clayton, can you drive?”,

KC – “Erm, yes sir, but I don’t have an FMT to drive a service vehicle”.

GH – “I asked, can you drive? “

KC  – “Yes sir…”

GH – “ Right, pack your kit up, we are off out in the morning”

This pretty much summed up the personal dynamic for the next week.  Within 10 miles of bouncing around the unpaved Southern Highway, GH ordered me to pull over, change seats and never say I can drive again.

Our first night was spent with some Mennonite’s, camping out in their back yard.  GH taught me about setting up an A frame ‘cot’ using my service issue poncho and then asked me about my knowledge of ‘Wilkinson’s disease’.  Trying to impress him I mumbled something about “isn’t it something to do with vitamin deficiency?”.  At this point, all I remember was his expression that mirrored Capt. Mainwaring’s ‘stupid boy’ look, as he explained that I would be using my service issue machete to create my A frame and that the blade was made by Wilkinson – the razor blade people -and that the disease was the general hacking off of ones own limbs, fingers, nether regions etc.  Not vitamin deficiency then.

Doug (Cpl McCormack) told me a story that typified the difference between an SAS soldier and a normal human being.  He said that they were sat around a campfire one night in the jungle, 4 or so of them, just talking when one of the SAS guys nodded his head towards his buddy across the campfire.  His buddy, who was talking at the time, slipped his machete out of its scabbard and in a single motion, took the head off a rearing snake just to the side of him.  On completion of the move, the SAS guy put the blade back in the scabbard and did not look at the writhing snake, but just carried on the conversation with hardly a break.  I am sure the reality was not nearly as dramatic, but then again…

I mention this only because, as GH and myself carried on the next day in our canvas covered land rover, we started to hear a small whining noise coming from the radio batteries we had on charge, sat between the front seats, on top of the fuel tank.

GH pulled over abruptly and told me to “GET OUT!”   Within seconds of doing so, one of the large batteries exploded firing its metal casing through the canvas roof.  Once the smoke had dissipated, we returned to the vehicle and proceeded to pull small chunks of metal out of the seats we were just sat in.  GH asked me to take photographs with my tourist camera so he could report back to HQ that Clansman batteries don’t like Landrovers.  We then promptly got back in and carried on the journey, while I nervously watched the second battery for possible overheating issues even though it was no longer plugged in

On arrival at the top of a hill overlooking a valley of tight jungled trees, GH asked me to set up the radio.  Fresh from my training, for which I passed with a distinction, I started to be the professional radio operator I was trained to be.

GH – “What are you doing?”

KC – with a hint of smugness because this is my job and not yours going through my head, I stated “I am trimming the antenna lengths to the frequency given, then I need to check the vertical standing wave ratio before offsetting the beat frequency oscillator before testing carrier wave transmissions to Air Port Camp… sir”

GH – “Give me the antenna, you plug that end in”.  he then proceeded to walk up to a lone tree and throw the other end over it.  Not trimmed to length.  Not configured. A total disregard for the manual and my highly trained skills.

GH – “Now try”

KC – “Airport Camp this is Lima Tango one two, how copy over?”   We would be lucky to be heard on a good day, let alone with this cowboy attitude GH had to my exacting and precise job per the manual…

APC –  “Lima Tango one two you are loud and clear, how me over?”

Son of a b….  

The Boss took over the radio and started talking to the SAS detachment who were bimbling around the Jungle unseen to us, in the valley below.  Shortly GH was taking map positions and then relaying to APC and within minutes 2 Harrier Jets were circling over the jungle cover and pretend strafing and bombing the coordinates relayed by the Boss.  I was pretty much redundant at this point and opted to lay on the Landrover roof and catch some UV’s, right up until GH passed some random map coordinates and a single Harrier, at about 3 inches above tree level, screamed over my half naked body.  You don’t hear them you see.  You don’t see them coming up the valley when you are sunbathing.  However, the second set of camouflage pants does come in really handy after being buzzed at 3”.

The rest of our time together became routine as he FAC’d the heck out of the Belizean jungle.  My memory after 40 years is probably a little off, but Flt Lt Hawkins truly stood out in my 22 years of service as being an exceptional man and impressed the wet-behind the ear kid I was then, and fondly remembered by me now.  RIP Boss,  you and Doug are not forgotten.

Keith Clayton


I have read the lovely words written about Garth and how people remember him. How good he was at the job he loved but i remember a different Garth. He was my 1st cousin but more like a big brother. Looking after me, teasing me and taking me out. I was getting married on Garth’s 30th birthday but he was abroad with his job and sent a message to say how sorry he would be to miss my big day. The morning of my wedding i had a knock on my bedroom door and when i opened it he was standing there as large life with a big grin on his face. A special day made even more special. He was a great father and big part of our family who will always be remembered and a man we will always be proud of.

Christina Francis

 

 


Family and friends are encouraged to contribute.

We will add information to this memorial as we receive it.

If you have a photo, an anecdote, or simply to say you remember him, we will be very pleased to hear from you, so please contact the sama office at sama@sama82.org.uk 

In 2022, as part of the 40th Anniversary commemorations, geographical features were identified and named after the fallen of 1982.   HAWKINS POINT is situated at the northwest point of Kidney Islands in Lively Sound, East Falkland.

It is in position
51° 59′ 36.51″ S, 058° 31′ 42.54″ W