The HIPWELL family – Air Mechanic (3rd class) HIPWELL, Frank (1899-1968) and Corporal HIPWELL, Thomas Henry “Harry” (1897-1916)

Thomas Henry “Harry” and Frank were the only children of Thomas Henry Hipwell (1875-1928), a tinplate worker with his own general dealer business, and Elizabeth Jane Cooper (1876-1949).  The boys were born at 23 Battenburg Street, Harry on 21st February 1897 and Frank on 20th May 1899.  Frank and Harry were baptised together at St Leonard’s on 30th July 1899.  By 1908 the family lived at 129 Harrow Road and Thomas Henry had established the business Hipwell & Waters and by 1916 they lived at 32 Welland Street.

t-h-hipwell.jpgThomas Henry Hipwell – known as Harry –  was the first to join up when war broke out, in early September 1914.  He had been working as a clerk when he joined the 8th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment as a private solider.  He was sent straight to the front and rose in rank during 1915 and 1916.  He had been confirmed in the rank of Corporal for less than a month when he was reported killed in action on 15th July 1916 during the attack on the village of Bazentin-Le-Petit, part of the first battle of the Somme.  His battalion had orders to withdraw to a position near Maretz Wood before returning to Bazentin-Le-Petit Wood.  “Nothing of importance happened after this until the Battalion was relieved except continual sniping from the enemy.”  Therefore either Harry was killed by a sniper on the 15th July, or else he in fact died during the preceding days when there was significant fighting and heavy bombardment of the woods, but was not reported as dead until after the chaos had subsided.  His body was not recovered.  A notice reporting his death was printed in the Leicester Mercury on 24th July 1916 and his photograph appeared in their roll of honour on 3rd August 1916.

Harry is commemorated on the St Martin’s war memorial – no evidence remains to show why this is the case, as there is no obvious link between the Hipwells and St Martin’s.  He is also remembered at St Peter’s, just around the corner from Welland Street.

St Peters Belgrave Thomas H Hipwell
The parish war memorial, St Peter’s – Harry appears on the third panel from the left

On the 14th July 1917 The Leicester Mercury printed three memorial notices “In loving memory of Lance-Sargeant T H (Harry) Hipwell (8th Leicesters), killed in action, July 15th 1916, Ever in our thoughts – from his mother, father, brother, Uncle Tom, Auntie Lizzie, the Girls, Maurice, his loving Uncle and Aunt, and cousins Mabel and Will.”  Thomas’ medals were sent to his father in 1921 as he was unmarried.  Thomas senior also received a war gratuity of £9 10s.  Harry is one of over 72,000 commemorated at Thiepval, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

Frank Hipwell attended Wyggeston Boys School, passing the Oxford local examination in 1913.

Wyggeston Boys School
Wyggeston Boys’ School

Frank, a tall man (6 feet) with dark brown hair and a dark complexion, joined the Royal Navy in October 1917.  He was stationed on land at HMS President II in the Crystal Palace, then on land at HMS Daedalus.  He transferred to the RAF after its formation in 1918, completing his service as Air Mechanic 3rd Class.  After the war ended he married blouse machinist Olive Mary Armstrong (1897-1970) by license at St Andrew’s Church on 5th July 1919.  They lived together with Frank’s parents at 136 Narborough Road and had a child together, Joyce (1919-2004) who was born on 27th December 1919.  Clearly the dates involved show that Olive was already pregnant at the time of marriage.  The marriage was unsuccessful.  In May 1927 Frank left home and went to live with Florence Sarah Barringer (1902-1966).  Together they had two sons, Barry (1929-) and David (1932-2008).  Olive petitioned for divorce in 1937, citing adultery, and Frank remarried in 1938, to Florence known as “Sally” or “Florrie”.  By that time Olive had returned to her parents at 124 Grasmere Street and Frank and Florrie lived at “Selbrooke”, Leicester Road in Groby. The divorce was uncontested and it seems very likely that an agreement had been reached by Olive and Frank as in July 1938 an alimony order was made for £26 per annum to Olive, payable weekly.  Frank carried on the sheet metal business of Hipwell & Waters from premises where the library now stands.  Frank died in 1968 and Florence in 1966.  Frank’s first wife Olive did not remarry.

Thomas senior and Elizabeth Jane moved from 129 Harrow Road in 1915-16, firstly to 32 Welland Street in Highfields where they were to learn of their son’s death, then to 136 Narborough Road.  By the time of Thomas’ death in 1928 they had moved house and business to 17 Leicester Road, Groby, but Elizabeth returned to Leicester and died there in 1949.  Frank left his estate to Frank, providing an income in the meantime for Elizabeth during her lifetime.

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