In summary, and based on his recorded Gazetting:
His main connection with Balloon Barrage was the fact that he pioneered some of the secret work that took place to try and find the best way to configure balloon cables to stop an aircraft and since the Germans had balloons as well he sought to find a way to stop balloons from bringing allied aircraft down. This he achieved by deliberately flying aircraft into Balloon cables of different sizes and types with balloons where the explosive charges were set at different positions and timings, all very much touch and go, science with grave risks for the pilot. I have read and have copies of the formerly secret documents relating to the trials carried out by "Tiger" Hawkins and they make quite scary reading on times!
I recently had contact with one of his sons who was kind enough to provide me with a picture and some anecdotes on his father. It is always exciting when I get contacted by relatives of people who I have researched as I am always surprised at how much more the family can tell me.
"Tiger" Hawkins was survived by three sons,
Peter Hawkins, Air Vice-Marshall David Hawkins CB LVO MBE DL, and Michael Hawkins.
Below is a small extract from a book entitled “Testing Aeroplanes in Wartime” by Alan Wheeler. This chapter is devoted to the experiences of pilots who have tested Barrage Balloon cables by flying into them. Although Pawlett is not specifically mentioned, the airfield at Churchstanton is, and it was here that Tiger Hawkins was based doing the experimental work.
The chapter is too long to quote here in full but I thought that you might like to read this extract.
“the technique for this test work had been worked out by a sturdy band of select pilots who had to do it for the first time when very little was known about the effect cables would have on the aircraft structure. As things turned out the effect was generally not serious and it was surprising how easily a real balloon cable could be broken by an aircraft wing so long as the aircraft was flying fast. This was just one of the valuable pieces of information which came out of these experiments. But there always was a definite element of risk as was brought home to us abruptly when a Wellington was flown into a balloon cable by Squadron Leader (“Tiger”) Hawkins in the course of normal test work when he was in command of the Research Flight.
On that occasion the first warning he had that anything had gone wrong was that a lot of dust and bits of fabric and wood were blown forward into the cockpit from the rear part of the fuselage. The Wellington then pitched upwards uncontrollably. Hawkins was still completely unaware that the whole tail unit and back fuselage had been broken off by the sudden yaw induced by the balloon cable drag on the outer wing. The next moment the Wellington did an equally sudden pitch downwards which was so violent that Hawkin’s straps were broken and he was thrown forwards and downwards into the bomb-aimer’s compartment amongst all the debris which had come from the broken back end. Hawkins was, of course, alone in the Wellington since there was no reason to carry unnecessary passengers on the rather risky tests. He remembered struggling to get back to the pilot’s cockpit where the escape hatch was situated, but the forces due to the Wellington’s manoeuvre were such that he could not move until a sudden change in manoeuvre threw him back on to his seat. From this position he saw a means of egress and baled out. He first thought that he had gone out through the top escape hatch but subsequent investigation suggests that he actually went out through the pilot’s side window and thus passed through the propeller! Fortunately he had shut both throttles at the first intimation of trouble, and the various antics of the Wellington had probably contributed to stopping the engines altogether.
It was subsequently established that this accident was due to unforeseen forces induced on the Wellington with a slight increase of speed of impact on the balloon cable. We learnt a lot. There are those people who hold that such troubles should be foreseen but if we could foresee all the forces imposed on an aircraft every time we increase the speed slightly there would be no need for test work at all.”
Mike Hawkins has shared with me the anecdote of his father in who 1942 along with the Air Defence Investigation Department stationed at Exeter was, after a bombing raid on the airfield, moved to Churchstanton not very far away. (I believe that this was where Pawlett is now in Somerset.) When the flight was moved every packing case and anything else required was labelled Church Fenton to confuse the possibility of enemy spying. This did once lead to his Father being posted as missing when flying to Churchstanton as after some hours he did not arrive. The unit called Mrs Hawkins and told her that her husband was missing and she had to tell them not to be so silly as he was sitting next to her with a beer in one hand and a pipe in the other!!
On 24th March 1942 Vickers Wellington P9210 was flown into a barrage balloon cable by Sqn. Ldr. C.R. "Tiger" Hawkins and he had to bail out. he survived and later went to inspect his crashed plane and had his photograph taken as a memento.
"Tiger" Hawkins AFC, inspects his wrecked aeroplane while calmly smoking his pipe.
(Picture Courtesy of the Hawkins Family)
One thing is certain this was an individual who clearly was a brave pilot with unique
qualities, someone who knew his aircraft and its characteristics so well, that flying
it into a dangerous balloon cable was a fairly normal event.
To learn more about the work on Balloon Cables at Pawlett
Click Here: Pawlett and Balloon Cable Experiments