Today marks 40 years since the Royal Air Force suffered its only fatality of the Falklands conflict.
Flight Lieutenant Garth Walter Hawkins
17th June 1942 - 19th May 1982, Aged 39
Garth Walter Hawkins was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire on 17th June 1942. Brought up in the village of Binfield, Garth attended the Junior school in the village first, followed by Ranelagh in Bracknell. Ranelagh is over 300 years old, the school founded by the Earl of Ranelagh, Richard Jones in 1709.
Garth was known as an outstanding sportsman. In football he played goalkeeper, playing originally with Bracknell Minors. He played for Binfield FC whilst still at school, followed by Oxford City which was one of the top Amateur teams of the time. Garth also played cricket and was known as a fearsome fast bowler for the village team in Binfield.
Garth joined the Royal Air Force when he was 22 years old and had been all over the world during his service.
In 1965 Garth married his first wife Sandra in Windsor, Berkshire. The couple had two sons Gary born the following year and Robert Garth, born in 1971. Garth married his second wife Tina in 1979.
Garth’s specialist talents were soon noticed by the SAS and he first worked with them in Canada in 1979. By 1982 he had worked with all SAS Squadrons both in the UK and Worldwide. It is said that his favourite place was Belize.
On 19th May 1982 Royal Navy Sea King HC4 ZA294 of 846 Naval Air Squadron was transferring SAS troops from HMS Hermes to HMS Intrepid when it ditched in the sea following what was thought to be a bird strike. Garth was an expert in directing air strikes to support special operations, and regarded by the Special Air Service as one of their own.
That day saw the biggest loss for the SAS since the Second World War. 21 men died that day, 19 of them SAS. Though eight men survived Garth who was a forward observer, did not. He was just one month short of his 40th birthday.
As Garth was attached to D Squadron, 22 SAS he is remembered at St Martins Church in Hereford as well as on all of the Falklands Memorials. In 2012 for the 30th anniversary there was a Memorial Service held in St Mark’s Church, Binfield. More than 100 people gathered in the Church for the service held by the Reverend Sir Philip Watts.
"Let your thoughts dwell today
On your country’s greatness;
And when you realise her grandeur
Remember it is a heritage
Won for you by dauntless men
Who knew their duty, and did it."
Pericles (431 BC)
Garth was known as ‘Gunner’ and known to love his job and be an absolute professional. At the time of his death he lived in Wokingham, Berkshire though his job had taken him all over the world, at home he had stayed close to his roots.
Garth was the only Royal Air Force death during the Falklands conflict.
We thank him for his service
Credit: Jay Morgan Hyrons.