TRIBUTES to one of the Royal Navy's "biggest characters, champions and tireless workers" have been paid.

Commander Robert ‘Bob’ Hawkins, who was most recently Commanding Officer of HMS Caledonia in Rosyth, passed away suddenly earlier this month. 

Tributes to the man, who impacted many over the span of his 46-year career, have flooded in after he sadly passed away over the weekend of October 7/8.

Brigadier Andy Muddiman RM, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “Bob Hawkins made an immediate impact upon his arrival in HMS Caledonia, much as he has done throughout his long and industrious career. 

"He will be sorely missed by the many whose lives he touched inside the Royal Navy and beyond and not least as a true gentleman and a leader.”

Hawkins held posts around the world, and experienced the technical and social changes which transformed the Navy from the one he joined at the age of 17 in 1978 to the one he continued to serve devotedly today.

Small ships or large – from P2000s and Hunt-class minehunters, destroyers and frigates, through to helping to bring carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth into service as her First Lieutenant – Hawkins tackled "every posting and assignment with passion, commitment and forthright opinions," the Royal Navy said.

Dunfermline Press:

The bulk of his career was spent in the mine warfare community.

He qualified as a mine warfare/clearance diving officer in 1982 and much of the next quarter of a century would revolve around serving in, directing the actions of or training minehunters.

He later imparted much of his knowledge and expertise in mine warfare both with the arm of the then Flag Officer Sea Training organisation dedicated to preparing small ships, including minehunters, for front-line duties- once in the 90s, again a decade later- and spent four years assisting the Royal Saudi Navy with its Sandown-class minehunter programme.

His commitment to the subject – and the wider Royal Navy –  even earned him a date with Her Majesty in 2007 to receive the MBE.

After qualifying as a principal warfare officer, Hawkins was assigned to frigate HMS Brilliant in 1993 and served in the Balkan crisis as featured by documentary maker Chris Terrill in the namesake TV series.

A generation later, Terrill would feature him once again in his series on bringing HMS Queen Elizabeth into service.

In between, Hawkins served as HMS Iron Duke’s Executive Officer, shared his mine warfare expertise with a NATO staff in Brussels… and again with the US Navy, in particular the use of autonomous systems and clearing mines in very shallow waters.

He served on the staff of UKMCC, helping to oversee the RN’s most important mine-hunting mission beyond home waters, joined allies in Penang in planning a series of exercises in the region involving Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK (Five Power Defence Arrangement).

And he commanded the Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron, charged with protecting the nation’s most important military assets, Vanguard-class nuclear submarines, and other RN and allied warships operating around HM Naval Base Clyde.

His most recent posting was as Commanding Officer of HMS Caledonia in Rosyth and chief-of-staff to the Royal Navy Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

"This is barely a precis of a 46-year career – or touches on the man himself," the Royal Navy said.

Dunfermline Press:

Away from the Royal Navy, Hawkins was involved with the leadership of the Scout Association at home and abroad and volunteered in Youth Justice in Scotland.

He loved rugby, especially revelling in the Royal Navy’s infrequent victories over the Army, took minehunter veterans under his wing as chairman of the Ton-Class Association and championed the successful campaign to erect a memorial at HMS Vernon – now the Gunwharf Quays shopping/leisure complex in Portsmouth.

Hawkins' friend of more than 40 years and fellow former mine warfare officer, Rob Hoole, added: “Bob was the personification of a naval officer; an inspiring leader and a true gentleman.

“His integrity was matchless and he could connect with anyone from admirals to the most junior sailor.

"He also had an innate sense of fun combined with a mischievous sense of humour. He seemed omnipresent too; wherever you went, there was Bob.”

Hawkins leaves behind his wife Trudy, two sons and two daughters.