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James Clarence Hawker (1859–1951)

by J. Whitelaw

This article was published:

James Clarence Hawker (1859-1951), soldier, was born on 8 May 1859 in Adelaide, second son and fifth child of James Collins Hawker, tide surveyor and later pastoralist and stock and station agent, and his wife Louisa, née Lipson, both English-born. James Collins Hawker was a son of Vice Admiral Edward Hawker, Royal Navy, and his brother George Charles became a South Australian cabinet minister. They founded the famous Bungaree grazing property near Clare.

Although there were naval antecedents on both sides of his family James Clarence chose the army and on 17 October 1881 was commissioned in the Adelaide Rifles, a volunteer unit. After becoming adjutant and being promoted captain in 1883, he was appointed a lieutenant in the Permanent Artillery of South Australia on 4 April 1885. In 1886 he took charge of Fort Largs where he commanded a detachment of thirty men. He was promoted captain in 1891. In March 1893 he sailed for Albany, Western Australia, in charge of a party of South Australian gunners; their task was to form the new garrison and mount the guns as part of an arrangement whereby the several Australian colonies had agreed to co-operate in defence matters. Hawker supervised the mounting of three six-inch breech-loading guns at Albany before returning to Adelaide in June; in August he became commander of the Permanent Artillery in South Australia. He was promoted major in 1896.

During the South African War Hawker served as a major with the 4th (South Australian) Imperial Bushmen as second-in-command and adjutant. He saw operations in the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony, including the action at Wittebergen, before being invalided home on 28 February 1901. He resumed command of the Permanent Artillery in South Australia on 1 May after the formation of the Commonwealth Military Forces. In May 1903 he was posted to Sydney as a company officer, Royal Australian Artillery, 2nd Military District. A succession of staff and regimental appointments followed in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia until his promotion to lieutenant-colonel on the Administrative and Instructional Staff and his appointment as assistant adjutant general, Victoria, in 1911. He was promoted colonel on 1 May 1914. In World War I he remained A.A.G. in Victoria, having his retirement date extended until 1 November 1918. His retirement, with the honorary rank of brigadier general, ended thirty-seven years of continuous service in the military forces of Australia. He was one of the first Australian-born soldiers to reach high rank.

Hawker had married Agnes Maud Phillips on 2 April 1887 at Trinity Church, Adelaide; the marriage was later dissolved. They had two sons and a daughter. The younger son, Godfrey Carew Hawker, served in the Royal Field Artillery in France in World War I, in the 3rd Afghan War in 1919 and with the Australian Imperial Force in World War II. Survived by his sons, James Clarence Hawker died at Mornington, Victoria, on 9 November 1951 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His estate was sworn for probate at £27,203. Edward William Hawker, South Australian grazier and politician, and Charles Allan Seymour Hawker, Federal parliamentarian, were his cousins.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • South Australian Artillery 1840-1966 (Adel, 1968).

Citation details

J. Whitelaw, 'Hawker, James Clarence (1859–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 13 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


8 May, 1859
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


9 November, 1951 (aged 92)
Mornington, Victoria, Australia

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