Mr Charlie A Hankins
09 June 1920 - 26 January 2004
Resident of The Royal Star & Garter Homes, Richmond,
January 1969 – January 2004
Charles Hankins (known as Charlie) joined the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment as a regular soldier. He was a Champion boxer for his regiment and the Black Watch Headquarters at Balhousie Castle still present the Charlie Hankins cup to this day.
In 1943, during the Second World War, Charlie was Serving in North Africa where he was hit by mortar fire and lost both legs, the sight of one eye, and suffered gunshot wounds to the chest. He was 22 years old.
Showing great courage and determination, which were to become his trademarks, he found a job as a toolmaker at which he worked full time for nearly thirty years. He came to live at The Royal Star & Garter Home in Richmond, Surrey, in 1969 following a serious operation when a bullet lodged in his chest since 1943 suddenly dislodged, after which he became too ill to manage living on his own.
To regain his strength and health, Charlie took up swimming and gained the Royal Life Saving Society’s Bronze Cross as well as long distance and survival awards. He found a part time job as a toolmaker near to the home, and bought a number of old hand-propelled Ministry issue three-wheel tricycles which he rode through Richmond Park every day. Right up until the last couple of years of his life, and despite sometimes experiencing great discomfort, Charlie always walked on 2 artificial legs, refusing to use wheelchairs with the exception of his WW2 tricycles which he used for upper body exercise and to get around outside the home.
During his time at the home, Charlie embarked on a series of extraordinary fundraising events to help his fellow residents. He also raised funds for local disabled children, hospitals, and the elderly. His first event in 1981 was to hand-propel himself in his WWII invalid tricycle from Richmond to Worthing, a distance of 56 miles. In 1984 he attached plastic buckets to his tricycle and propelled himself down the River Thames from Westminster to Richmond.
He undertook his first marathon in 1986, propelling himself from John O’ Groats to Land’s End, the shortest route being 874 miles.
He repeated the trip in 1990, this time setting out from Land’s End, and his exploits on the journey included a tandem parachute jump at Perth Airfield, and a sub-aqua dive into Loch Ness. Charlie is commemorated by the Land’s End to John O’ Groats Association through the presentation of the Charlie Hankins Memorial Award to the person who has shown the greatest courage completing the journey.
In 1993 he undertook his second tandem parachute jump from 10,000 feet and this was followed by several more including one to commemorate the 94th birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who was Colonel-in-Chief of his old regiment. Over the years Charlie raised around £350,000, and in 1988 he was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of his outstanding work for charity. In 1996 he was awarded the “Help the Aged Gold Award” and in 1998 was named a “Londoner of the Year”.
Charlie married Violet in 1940 and they had three daughters – Patricia, Jean and Linda. He was a remarkable and inspiring man who will long be remembered by all who knew him.