Hawtin was brought up in Buckinghamshire and served as an apprentice coach-builder. He was posted to the 5th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment on the western front in April 1917. On 3 May that year he had been captured by the Germans. As a prisoner Hawtin was given various jobs on working parties outside the camp and had a fair amount of freedom.
I spent a few weeks working on a farm. The farmer used to come in each day and pick up so many prisoners… it wasn’t a bad job at all, haymaking and so forth. There was four or five girls from the village as well. The old farmer, me being the only Englishman, he sort of singled me out for, not
preferential treatment, but curiosity perhaps.
He used to like a drink and he had his old horse and cart and he used to get me to drive him back into the village to the village pub. That was very amusing because he’d go in there and sit there perhaps for a couple of hours or more and keep knocking them back. He always used to get me a drink at the same time, but the strange thing was when we went back, when he’d finished, he never paid a penny for the drink! He used to book it all down and then send the bill in.
He wasn’t a bad old stick, but he had a son and he was an officer in the German army, and he came home on leave. He didn’t take at all kindly to me, but while he was there he cleaned all his buckles and things, polished them all up and he set them all out in a row on some railings outside the house. I saw this belt buckle and it shone beautiful. I thought ‘ here goes’ so I pinched it and I’ve still got it! I bet he got a hell of a row for losing it.