This page is dedicated to the memory of:
Garth Walter Hawkins
Royal Air Force
The Garth Hawkins that I knew – ‘Gunner’
I only ever knew Garth professionally, or socially for the occasional evening drink in Airport Camp Mess, Belize. Garth was a Primary Forward Air Controller (PFAC) and I was one of his Army secondaries. He looked after many of them during his career; what I remember most about him was his absolute enthusiasm for his job. He loved his job. He controlled aircraft with the boyish enthusiasm of a child with a new train set, and yet he was utterly professional. He seemed to be able to will aircraft onto the target, with an absolute minimum of verbal input. What annoyed me, as I struggled to learn this skill, was that he made it all seem so easy. While I was struggling to imagine the pilot’s view from his cockpit, mixing up my rights and lefts, and even scanning the wrong sector, Garth would pick up the failing mission and turn it into success.
I also remember that he had an incredibly thick skin and seemed absolutely impervious to ‘Pongo’ jibes about ‘Crabfats’ when aircraft were late at the initiation point. He would just beam at the joker, and then proceed to dazzle us when the planes did show up.
Like many of those who learned from him, I was very sad to hear of Garth’s death. I am consoled by the fact that he was on his way, during a time of war, to do the job that he loved.
F J O’Flynn (Paddy)
At the time I met Garth I was an RAF Squadron Leader employed as a weapons trials officer in the RAF Central Tactics and Trials organisation at RAF High Wycombe. I learned soon after meeting Garth that he lived only 100 metres from me in Wokingham Berkshire – one of the coincidences of Service life.
I met Garth in 1981 at Tain Range in Scotland while running a Harrier trial using SNEB rockets against an array of tank targets. Garth arrived and set up his laser designator in an elevated position on top of his Landrover among the heather about half a mile from the target. After the first attack we all gathered in the target area to assess the damage but, during this process, we saw smoke rising from the vicinity of Garth’s Landrover. When Garth realised it was his Landrover that was burning we all set off at high speed to try to extinguish the fire but, by the time we reached the Landrover, it was burning too well and we had to restrain Garth who was intent on rescuing his business documents from the inferno. Later, we were busy organising a replacement Landrover and laser designator whilst the local fire brigade were still struggling to extinguish the burning heather when the telephone rang for Garth. It was the Thames Valley police calling to say that his house had been broken into. Much later, about 1.00am the following morning, after we had received a replacement designator via the Heathrow/Inverness shuttle and tested it, I escorted Garth out of the Inn I was staying in to the replacement Landrover on the way to his accommodation. It was drizzling and wet as we discovered the flat tyre on his Landrover followed, shortly afterwards, by the discovery that it had no spare wheel. The irrepressible Garth sat cross-legged on the tarmac and declared to us all that nothing else could go wrong that day. He was absolutely right – the trial resumed with great success due in no small part to his expertise and professionalism.
Later, whilst involved in staff work supporting the action in the Falklands, I was deeply saddened to learn that Garth had perished in a Sea King helicopter together with many others during an operation to insert them onto the islands to provide forward air control for the Harriers. A brave man with indomitable spirit. Nothing else could go wrong that day.