Ernest Howkins was born on 19th July 1894. Almost a year later on 28th July 1895 he was baptised Maurice at Woolscott Church. His parents were William and Emma (nee King) who married in late 1893. William was a farmer at Manor Farm, Woolscott.
Around 1892 the family moved to Hillmorton, where William had taken over the farm at Hillmorton Grounds, in Barby Road. Maurice was aged 16 and at school (Lawrence Sheriff). He had a younger brother Charles, aged 6. After leaving school he became a pupil in the engineering works at Crewe.
At the outbreak of war he joined the Honourable Artillery Company and in February 1915 given a commission in the Royal Field Artillery. He later transferred to the Royal Horse Artillery and promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, 1st/5th (Lowland) Brigade. He arrived in Egypt on 2nd March 1916. He was killed on the first day of The Battle of Romani which was part of the Palestine Campaign. It is likely that he was killed by the Turkish artillery attack on Romani.
The Suez Canal was a vital supply route for goods and the ANZAC and Indian troops and equipment. Early in the War the Allies had to defend it against Turkish troops and then against the Senussi Arabs in the Western Desert, it increased in importance following the failure of the Gallipoli Campaign and defeat at Kut-al-Amra in Mesopotamia (Iraq).
In April 1916 the Turks made a strong raid at Oghratine and Katie but did not follow up the success.
This gave Lt. General Sir Archibald Murray time to build up strength.
Aerial reconnaissance showed a large enemy force leaving Beersheba on 9th July 1916.It included the Turkish 3rd Division, a German Pasha 1 Group with 5 machine gun Companies, 2 trench mortar companies plus heavy and anti-aircraft artillery. It reached Bir al Abd on 19th July.
The enemy could not attack along the coast, but had to come from the south across a waterless desert with soft sand dunes. The 52nd Division moved to Romani when the railway was completed and were joined by the 53rd Welsh Division. The Commander in charge was Major-General the Hon. Sir Herbert Lawrence. He chose to wait until the Turks attacked. They approached to 10 miles from Romani and halted for 10 days.
Late on the 3rd of July a Turkish Force followed the retreat of the 2nd Australian Light Infantry but failed to scale the Wellington Ridge. On the 4th they shelled the Allied positions but did not attack directly. It is likely that he was killed by the Turkish artillery attack on Romani.
The Turkish forces withdrew having suffered 8,000 casualties, and 4,000 prisoners were taken by the Allies. The Allies had 1,100 casualties. Lawrence did not commit to an attack quickly enough on the retreating force, missing an excellent opportunity.
He is buried in the Kantara War Memorial Cemetery grave D8. Kantara is on the east bank of the Suez Canal 160 km north-east of Cairo.
Kantara was a major base and Hospital. In January 1916 a new railway was built eastwards from Kantara to Sinai and Palestine.
Maurice Howkins is remembered on the Lawrence Sheriff School Plaque and the Hillmorton War Memorial, as well as Rugby Memorial Gates.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM