Robert was born in Wolverhampton on 11 November 1893, the son of Herbert and Harriet Hawkswood. In 1901, they were living at 72 Bilston Road, Wolverhampton, along with Robert’s siblings Charles, Violet and Clarence. By 1911, they were at 2 Portland Place, Bilston Road, and Robert had an additional two siblings, Doris Edith and Williem Henry. By this date, Robert was an engine cleaner for a railway company. He started working for the Great Western Railway at Stafford Road 10 October 1910. He became 3rd Chief Fireman on 20 November 1911 at Tyseley, but resigned on 21 June 1912.
He enlisted with the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards in 1912 (number 15979). He rose to become a Lance Corporal, but was reported missing in October 1914. On 23 July 1915, the Express & Star confirmed that he had been killed in action on 29 October 1914. He is remembered at the Ypres (Menin Gate) memorial.