Captain Norman Hipkins

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  Photograph af Norman (on right) and unknown colleague courtesty of Great-Nephew Richard Adams. Further photographs at bottom of page.

Killed in Action on Saturday, 28th September 1918, age 26.
Buried in Grave III. F. 2. at Bellicourt British Cemetery, Aisne, France.

1st/6th Bn., North Staffordshire Regiment. 137th Brigade of 46th Division.
Formerly 4524 14th London Regiment (the London Scottish).

Son of Herbert and Annie Isabella Hipkins, of Highfield House, 191, High St., Smethwick, Staffs., formerly of Tipton
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: London, Resident: Smethwick.

First landed France & Flanders, 18th October 1916.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because his death was reported in the Tipton Herald.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/238268/

Genealogical Data

Norman was born at 1 Hipkins Street, Tipton, on 21st April 1892, the fourth child of Herbert and Annie Hipkins. The family seem to have moved from Tipton to Smethwick between 1897 and 1899.

1901 Census
188 High Street, Smethwick, Staffs.
Herbert Hipkins (42, Provision Merchant, born Tipton), his wife Annie (40, born Smethwick), and their 7 children: Herbert G. (14, born Tipton), Marion (13, born Tipton), Sydney H. (10, born Tipton), Norman (8, born Tipton), Gladys (6, born Tipton), Francis W. (4, born Tipton), and Doris Evelyn (2, born Smethwick).

1911 Census
191 High Street, Smethwick, Staffs.
Herbert Hipkins (52, Provision Dealer, born Tipton), his wife Annie Isabella (50, born Smethwick), and their 7 surviving children of 9: Herbert Gallard (24, Cost Clerk, born Tipton), Marianne (23, School Teacher, born Tipton), Sydney Harris (20, Engineer Turner, born Tipton), Norman (18, School Teacher, born Tipton), Gladys (16, School, born Tipton), Francis Walter (14, School, born Tipton), and Doris Evelyn (12, School, born Smethwick).

Personal Data

After leaving school, Norman Hipkins went to Westminster Training College to train to become a teacher. After college he taught at a school in Smethwick, before possibly working in London as he spent a few months in 1914-1915 with the Officer Training Corps at King’s College.

Norman enlisted as a Private with the 3/14th London Regiment (3rd Battalion, London Scottish) on the 19th March 1915 at Buckingham Gate, London. He was 22 years and 11 months of age, 6 feet 1¾ inches tall with a 36-inch chest. His vision and physical development were both described as ‘good’.

On 13th May 1915 he transferred to ‘B’ Company of the 2/14th London Regiment (2nd Battalion, London Scottish) who were training in Saffron Waldon. Norman was appointed Lance-Corporal (unpaid) on 17th July, until on 18th September 1915 he was discharged from the London Regiment as a result of his commission to the 6th North Staffs.

Norman’s Medal Index Card shows that he first went abroad on 18th October 1916; this is possibly incorrect. On 17th September 1916, Norman is shown leaving Calais for Folkestone for further officer training at Scotch Camp, Catterick. He then returned to the 1/6th North Staffs.

After Norman's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £201/1/2d (201 pounds, 1 shilling and 2 pence); this was paid to his father and administrator, Herbert Hipkins Esq., in March 1919. A further £5/0/0d (5 pounds exactly) was paid to his father in September 1919, and a final £0/19/2d (19 shillings and 2 pence) in October 1923.

An entry appeared in the National Probate Calendar in 1919 for Norman's estate (absence of punctuation is as recorded):
"Hipkins Norman of 191 High Street Smethwick Staffordshire a Captain 6th North Staffordshire Regiment died 28 September 1918 being killed in action in France Administration (with will) Lichfield 10 February to Herbert Hipkins gentleman. Effects £249/10s 10d."
Editors note: This is approximately £14,000 at 2019 values.

Assistance with Officer's Papers by Diane Shakespeare is gratefully acknowledged.

Action resulting in his death

29th September 1918 has been described by leading historian Professor John Bourne as "the day Staffordshire won the war". This was the day the Hindenburg Line, the final truly defensible German defence line, was breached. The 46th (North Midlands) Division stormed the St. Quentin Canal between Bellenglise and the Riqueval Bridge, captured the Riqueval Bridge itself, and took the village of Bellenglise. The bridge was stormed by the 1/6th North Staffs, led by Captain A. Charlton.

On 27th/28th September, the 46th Division had moved to the front line on the west side of the St. Quentin Canal preparing for the attack, but at 9.00am on the 28th September was subject to a severe German attack from the direction of Bellenglise. The following words are quoted from the 1/6th North Staffs War Diary, "9am: 'D' Company (under command of Captain F.J. Newton, M.C.) was attacked by the enemy. .... Although practically surrounded, 'D' Company fought with great gallantry and determination, and after an attack lasting 6 hours the enemy were beaten off with heavy casualties. German bombs, ammunition and guns were used to suppress the enemy as it was impossible to get supplies up to the scene of the attack during daylight."

In order to suppress this attack the Commanding Officer, Colonel T.R. Evans, ordered an artillery bombardment onto the German lines. This was successful, but both Captain Norman Hipkins and 2./Lieut. Wilfred Plant were killed by a German shell whilst observing the effect of our own artillery bombardment. 15 Other Ranks and 2 Officers of the 1/6th North Staffs were killed on the 28th September. Norman Hipkins is buried in Bellicourt British Cemetery, alongside Wilfred Plant.

If you require further detail of the action of the 1/6 North Staffs on the 28th September, the following is extracted from a document entitled "NARRATIVE OF OPERATIONS" also found with the War Diary.
"At 10 am on the 28th September, the enemy attacked the battalion on our right; the attack afterwards extending to trenches occupied by our “D” Company (commanded by Captain F.J. Newton M.C.), who were acting as outpost Company.
The Outpost Company of the battalion on our right, who had been hard pressed for quite a while, eventually had to give way. “D” Company however remained firm, keeping the Germans back with what little ammunition they had. Our ammunition supply very soon became exhausted, so German bombs and rifles were used to hold the enemy off. A German machine gun had been captured the previous day, and Private Mountford, after getting it into working order, and collecting belts of German ammunition, mounted it on the parapet. During the attack he did a great deal towards holding up a determined thrust by the enemy.
Practically as soon as the attack commenced, the telephone line to Battalion Headquarters was severed by the enemy artillery, and the first news of the attack was brought by Corporal Washington and Private Green, who had to cross the open under heavy machine gun and rifle fire, there being no communication trenches. On receiving the information of the attack, Colonel Evans immediately went forward with the artillery F.O.O. (Forward Observation Officer) to inquire into the situation.
A heavy barrage was eventually brought to bear on the enemy positions. This proved very effective, and was the means of slowing down the enemy, who were at this time trying to work round the flanks of our outpost Company. Whilst observing the effects of our artillery fire, Captain N. Hipkins (Officer Commanding “A” Company) and 2/Lieut. W. Plant were killed by a shell.".

Newspaper Cuttings

The Birmingham Daily Mail 21st October 1915
Lance-Corporal Norman Hipkins, of the 2nd Battalion, London Scottish (Editor: actually 2nd/14th County of London (London Scottish)), who has just been gazetted second-lieutenant in the Prince of Wales, North Staffordshire, Regiment, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Hipkins, of Highfield House, Smethwick. He was educated at the George Dixon Secondary School, the High School, and Westminster Training College.
He first joined the Officers' Training Corps, but afterwards enlisted as a Private in the 3rd Battalion of the London Scottish, later being transferred to the 2nd Battalion, and promoted to the rank of Lance-Corporal.

The Uttoxeter Advertiser, June 1918
The Uttoxeter Advertiser published an obituary for Pte 3944 Thomas Holmes and quoted an extract from a beautiful letter which his mother, Mrs Holmes, had received from Captain Norman Hipkins:
"The clouds of war have again darkened your dear home, and I know that you have given another noble son in this battle for existence of the dear homeland.
Darkie, the nickname for Tom, was my faithful runner. He was always merry and bright and ever ready to carry his messages through the danger zones. Your loss is "A" Company's loss, and on behalf of the officers and men of "A" Company, 1/6th North Staffs., I convey my heart-felt sympathy in the loss of your dear boy.
He came out with the Division, and has served continuously in France. On the night of May 20-21 he was with me going round the posts, very near the hated foe. A hostile machine-gun fired upon us, and unfortunately your son was hit. I rushed to him and found the wound of a serious nature. Still, he was bright, and we hoped for the best. He was soon got away, and when I heard that he had died from wounds I felt that I had lost a good man.
May this letter bring a little sunshine into your home, and assure you above all that your son was a good soldier.
We write "He fell"; immortals say "He rose";
Weep not for him, but keep your tears for those
Who slumbered on in comfort's easy bed,
Deaf to their country's call; these are the dead.
Always think of him as a hero."
In this letter Captain Hipkins added the Postscript, "A" Company miss "Darkie".

Dudley Herald 19th October 1918
It has been well said that the war has cut down the flower of England's young manhood. Another to be placed on the roll of brave lads is Captain Norman Hipkins of the North Staffordshire Regiment, who was killed in action at the great crossing of the St. Quentin Canal on September 28th. The captain had only recently returned after leave to France where he had served for two years, first as lieutenant and then as captain. He was much liked by the officers and men of his company. He was of a commanding personality, being one of the tallest men in the 1/6th North Staffords, and always encouraged sport amongst the men. He himself was keen on swimming, and had gained the medal of the Royal Life Saving Society. The heroic deeds of the North Staffords who were included in the 46th Division will ever stand out in history in connection with the march to Cambrai. Captain Hipkins joined the O.T.C. of London University in 1914, and in 1915 enlisted, together with a number of his college friends, as a Private in the London Scottish. Not many months elapsed before he obtained his commission in the North Staffs Regiment. In a tribute from his Company and sympathy with his parents, it is stated: "The Captain was a splendid leader and a cheerful spirit, and greatly respected by all, officers and men."
The gallant officer was the third son of Mr & Mrs Herbert Hipkins, of Smethwick (formerly of Tipton).
At the Baptist Church, Smethwick, the pastor (Rev. Hugh singleton) referred to the sad event, and paid a high tribute to Captain Hipkins. When on leave he paid a visit to the school, and made a deep impression on the young people by his manly talk.
Mr and Mrs Hipkins have received many sympathetic letters. Dr. Workman, principal of the Westminster Training College, writes: "Of your son I could write much. He was one of the finest men we have ever had at the College, a true follower of Christ, a Christian gentleman, and no one who knew him is surprised that he made such rapid advance in the Army. He was a born leader of men, and his loss to you is very great. When such sad events as these happen, one cannot help but reflect on how fine an influence such a man as your son would have exerted on the young life of this nation, all the stronger and richer because of the experience through which he was passing."
A former Commanding Officer of the regiment writes as follows to Mr and Mrs Hipkins: "It was with the deepest regret that I heard of the death in action of your son in action recently, and wish to offer you and the rest of your family my heartfelt sympathy with you in your great loss. He served with me at Catterick, and was always so enthusiastic and cheerful in everything he undertook, both in work and sports, that he was uniformly successful, and I know he displayed the same characteristics in France and was a most successful company commander. I kept in touch with him by correspondence, and feel his loss as a personal one. You must be very proud to think that he was one of those gallant fellows who took part in that glorious action which finally smashed the Hindenburg system of defence, the account of which will always be one of the proudest traditions of this regiment, the Staffordshire Brigade, and indeed of the British Army. I regret to say that four of the officers were killed, including the Commanding Officer, and 11 wounded, which testifies to the severity of the fighting. We are all extremely proud of the qualities displayed by the Brigade on that occasion, and I had a telegram from the Brigadier-General saying how proud he was to command such troops. I am sure the knowledge of these facts will be the greatest consolation to you in your great loss, and you will always be able to feel that he died as a gallant gentleman in the service of his King and Country in the most critical period of her history."
A memorial service will be held at Regent Street Baptist Church, Smethwick, on Sunday evening.

Tipton Herald 19th October 1918
Roll of Honour
HIPKINS. - On 28th September, Captain Norman Hipkins, North Staffordshire Regt., killed in action in France, age 26 years, dearly beloved son of Mr and Mrs Herbert Hipkins, Smethwick, formerly of Bloomfield, Tipton.

Birmingham Gazette 7th October 1918
Captain Norman Hipkins, of the North Staffordhire Regiment, was killed on 28 September, but the announcement only reached his parents, Mr and Mrs Herbert Hipkins, of Highfield House, Smethwick, this week-end. He was a George Dixon schoolboy, and later went to the High School, New Street. Entering the scholastic profession, he was appointed to one of the City Council Schools, and later went to Westminster College.

London Gazette Issue 29301 published on the 17 September 1915:
- Lance-Corporal Norman Hipkins, from The London Regiment, to be Second Lieutenant. Dated 19th September, 1915.
London Gazette Issue 30283 published on the 14 September 1917:
- The undermentioned officers to be actg. Capts. 20th July 1917: 2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) N. Hipkins relinquishes the temp, rank of Lt. 8th June 1917.
London Gazette Issue 30367 published on the 2 November 1917:
- North Staffs. Regt.-The undermentioned 2nd Lts. to be Lts. 1st July 1917 N. Hipkins (actg. Capt.).
London Gazette Issue 31085 published on the 27 December 1918:
- Mentioned in Despatches - NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT. Hipkins, Lt. (A./Capt.) N., 1/6th Bn. (T.F.). (Killed in action.)

University of London Officers Training Corps, Roll of War Service, 1914-1919
Captain, North Staffordshire Regiment.
Son of Mr. and Mrs H. Hipkkins of Smethwick.
Killed in action leading his men at Bellenglise on 28th September 1918. Buried at Bellicourt.

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Norman Hipkins as a Second Lieutenant with his Scout and Sniper section. Photograph courtesy of Richard P.

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Family grave in Uplands Cemetery, Smethwick; courtesy of Stu.