Mount Victoria - Leslie Hawker

Leslie Hawker wasn't old enough to enlist until 1918. He survived an outbreak of 'flu, but never saw active service on the battlefields of Europe.

 

Leslie Hawker was born in Wellington in 1898. As a boy he attended Clyde Quay school in Mount Victoria – probably because he lived just around the corner with his mother at 6 College Street, now the site of the Muay Thai Boxing Gym.

Enlistment

When New Zealand entered World War One in August 1914, Leslie wasn’t old enough to join the army. It wasn’t until the final year of the war that he enlisted, on the 18th of February 1918, not long after his 19th birthday.

When he left Wellington to begin his military training at Trentham military camp in Upper Hutt, he left behind him a job as a hardware assistant with the Wellington company C. & A. Odlin, a timber and hardware stockist whose new premises in Cable Street were described by the Evening Post in 1917 as “a monument of the progress, not only of this firm, but of the City of Wellington as a whole”

England and the Armistice

After just over two months of training at Trentham, Leslie left Wellington for England on the HMNZT Tahiti, which departed on the 10th of July. He disembarked in Plymouth on the 10th of September, but was lucky to do so – the Tahiti had suffered a severe on-board outbreak of the influenza that was becoming a pandemic in 1918, and 68 of Leslie’s fellow passengers were dead.

Leslie’s luck continued – although he underwent further training and was eventually posted to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade’s camp in Brocton, the signing of the Armistice on the 11th of November 1918 meant he never saw active service on the battlefields of Europe. He set sail from England on the 5th of August 1919, returning to New Zealand and marrying Shelagh Isabel Coghlan in Wellington in 1923.

After the War

Although the Hawkers spent some time living in Nelson, where their son was born, by the time of the Second World War they were living in Wellington once more. Leslie was again working for C. & A. Odlin, and when he signed up for ‘home service’ with the army in the Wellington area in WWII, he gave an address in Seatoun.

Leslie died in Auckland in 1982, at the age of 84.

Find out more

  • Leslie is one of the ‘Berry Boys’, around 120 New Zealand soldiers who had their photo taken at the Berry & Co. photography studio in Cuba Street, Wellington, before heading overseas to fight in World War One.
  • Details of New Zealand soldiers’ activity in World War One can be found by examining their digitised defence personnel file, most of which can be accessed online via the Archives NZ catalogue.
  • Jennifer Summers has written about the flu outbreak on the Tahiti, drawing on diary entries made by another soldier who was a passenger on board the ship.
  • Leslie's story and the C. & A. Odlins hardware company, where Leslie worked, are included in our Story Map.

Image references

  1. 'Leslie John Hawker', Berry & Co Photographers. 1918. Te Papa. See Leslie's individual page on the Te Papa website.
  2. De Tourret, Ernest, fl 1909-1912. De Tourret, Ernest, fl 1909-1912 :Photograph of Clyde Quay School, Wellington. Ref: PAColl-8385. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  3. Archives NZ, Class Schedules, Wellington Education District, 1908. Accessible at Archives NZ.
  4. Steam engine, Wellington. Dickie, John, 1869-1942 :Collection of postcards, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/4-017049-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  5. Dickie, John, 1869-1942. Dickie, John fl 1911-1938 : SS HMNZT Tahiti. Ref: 1/2-014611-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  6. Classified, Evening Post, 24 February 1923. Accessed on Papers Past.
  7. Warehouse and Head Office of the C&A Odlin Timber and Hardware Co., Ltd, Evening Post, 21 January 1913. Accessed on Papers Past.