Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Anything From a Jeep to a Lorry"

Miss Alice Hawkes sailed for Ireland to spend some time at Inniscara House, the Hawkes family estate.

Sometimes, despite all the hard work invested in a genealogical search, the conclusion reached turns out to be disappointing. In our case with this puzzle of the photo album found in an antique shop, we are struggling to determine the identity of the couple—Harry and Alice—who sent the album to an undisclosed recipient for a Christmas gift in 1936.

While we did find an Alice in the Hawkes family who seemed to fit the parameters for our mystery couple, it turns out she didn't marry anyone named Harry, thus ruling her out in our search.

However, in the process of doing so, I discovered so many interesting details of this woman's life that I can't simply set her aside and continue, laser-focused, to cut through every other possibility. We can at least take some time to recognize the unique contributions this Alice made during her moment in history.

Alice Hawkes—later to become Mrs. Edward H. Robinson, the woman we saw mentioned in two family obituaries, traveling back home to Corning, New York, from her current residence in Ontario—lived an active life from an early age until her premature death. Though faced with a seeming set-back during her return to the Hawkes family estate in Ireland in 1915, as soon as she could, she found a way to volunteer to serve during the first World War, a path leading her through posts in both Britain and France before her marriage to a British Army physician, with whom she eventually settled in Canada to raise her family.

Several newspapers, including this June 15, 1944 reprint in the Corning Leader from the Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard, have preserved her story.

     Pvt. Robinson was born in Corning. After the death of her parents, she went to Ireland to take charge of her properties there. When the first war broke out, she was en route to New York, but the ship turned back.
     She was all alone in Ireland, her friends in the Army were being wiped out swiftly in the early phase of the war. The first thing she did was to offer her large home in Inniscara for use as a hospital. Then she moved to London to volunteer for canteen work. The official opening of the canteen at the Liverpool station was attended by King George V—and despite the royal presence the coffee pot just wouldn't work.
     From the canteen she proceeded to France to work in the wounded and missing office in Boulogne under the British forces. Then when the United States entered the war, she became a nurses' auxiliary—similar to a nurses' aid now—in an American hospital near Paris.
     After the war she was married to a Canadian subject.

That "Canadian subject," as we've learned, was Edward Robinson. Together, Alice and Edward raised a son—Hawkes Robinson—and a daughter. It will be no surprise to learn that the daughter's name was also Alice.

The newspaper account, however, provided the explanation for the senior Alice's involvement in the first World War. This, as you've likely noticed, was a report published in 1944, in the midst of the second World War.

There is a reason for this. As much as one would expect the wife of a respected physician to enjoy her station in life, by the time of Canada's involvement in World War II, Alice Hawkes Robinson was ready to jump back into the action. She became a member of the transport division of the Canadian Women's Army Corps., where she was likely to be found driving "anything from a Jeep to a lorry."

By then, both her children were grown and concurrently serving in the war effort—notably her daughter Alice, who had enlisted in the women's division of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Not long after the close of the war, an entry back home in the Corning newspaper pinpointed the next event in the family's timeline. Alice's husband passed away on March 8, 1948, while vacationing in Coral Gables, Florida. While a sad yet inevitable episode in any family's history, it certainly didn't come close to matching the next occurrence in the story of this Alice and her branch of the extended Hawkes family.  


  1. Replies
    1. I'm sure she could have told quite a few stories of war time--for both wars!

  2. Ah.. now I see the "husband named Harry" assumption trap... They could be brother and sister... but one just doesn't think that way!


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