GUNNER JOHN JOSEPH HAWKSWORTH
ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
19TH SEPTEMBER 1917 AGE 29
BURIED: ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
Gunner Hawksworth's inscription comes from the first two lines of a hymn written by the Revd John Dykes (1823-1877).
Sweet flowerets of the martyr band,
So early plucked by cruel hand;
Like rosebuds by a tempest torn,
As breaks the light of summer morn;
The hymn is based on a line from a poem by the Roman poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (c.348 - c.413). Clemens' poem writes graphically about the slaughter of the children by King Herod's 'cruel hand' on Holy Innocents' Day, 28 December, describing the children as, 'salvete, flores martyrum', 'torn by the storm on earth but now flowers in heaven'.
Hawksworth's mother chose his inscription. Martyr isn't a word that relations often used, sacrifice, yes, martyrdom, no - perhaps it's too Catholic a concept for a Protestant nation. John Joseph was her only child. Born in Edensor, Derbyshire where his father farmed, mother was living in Walcot, Shropshire when she chose her son's inscription, just 10 miles from Dawley where she had been born.
Hawksworth, a volunteer, served with 81st Battery, Royal Field Artillery. According to his medal roll, he arrived in France on 16 March 1915, which means that he was a volunteer. He died of wounds in a base hospital in Etaples on 19 September 1917.