Frederick (Fred) William Hopkins was born in Aldershot, Hampshire, England in the latter half of 1897.
He was the son of Alfred Frederick Hopkins (b. 1870) and Letitia Mary Jones (b. 10 December 1875). His father was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire and came from a family with strong military links, whilst his mother was a native of Cardiff, Wales. The couple had married at Aldershot on 16 September 1896.
Fred’s father, who had over twenty years’ worth of military experience, had enlisted for service in the British Army in October 1885 whilst in York, records showing that he was a diminutive man standing at only 5' 1" tall (he later grew to 5' 8") and with brown hair and hazel eyes and going on to attain an exemplary record of conduct. His service with the 3rd King's Own Hussars lasted on home soil until December 1898 when he was posted to India for a three-year service until 22 January 1901, with a spell in South Africa and another in India until December 1906 after which he was posted home. It appears that his wife and family accompanied him for at least a period of this service. He was discharged from service at the rank of Sergeant Trumpeter on 3 January 1907.
Fred had two siblings: his brother George was born in Norwich, Norfolk on 11 October 1898 whilst his younger brother Ralph was born in Lucknow, India on 25 April 1901.
The family would be absent from the 1901 census, then still stationed in India. By the time of the 1911 census Fred's father was described as an army pensioner and caretaker for the offices of the White Star Line and the family were residents of 14 Fanshawe Street, Southampton with Fred still described as a schoolboy. He perhaps left school that summer and went to work at sea, his position possibly being secured by his father's connection to the White Star Line. Fred was also a keen Boy Scout and was a Patrol Leader in the 20th Southampton Group, of which he was a popular member.
When Fred signed-on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912 he gave his address as 14 Fanshawe Street, Southampton and his age as 16 (in reality he was several months shy of his 15th birthday). His previous ship had been the Olympic and as a plate steward, he received monthly wages of £3, 15s. He was one of two 14-year-olds working on the Titanic, the other being bellboy William Albert Watson, and therefore was one of the youngest members of the crew.
Frederick William Hopkins died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified. His death was mourned by many in his community.
Among the local Titanic victims was Leader Fred Hopkins, aged 14, of the 20th Southampton (St Laurence) Troop. Hopkins, who lived in Fanshawe Street, Southampton, was employed in the liner’s pantry. He had a number of voyages on other liners. He was probably the most popular boy in his Troop, and the following appreciation has been written by his Scoutmaster, Mr J. Mew:
We all feel sure that Fred at the last would give his own life to save another. He was a through Scout in every sense, always ready to lend a helping hand. The youngest boy to the eldest in the Troop was proud of Fred. Only last summer he was dressing at the swimming baths, and a man near the diving table was calling for help. There were several about, but while they were hesitating what to do Fred was out to him and assisted him till the attendants brough the boat. He left his chums to tell the tale, and all I got from him was that he was doing his duty. He was very fond of swimming and gained several certificates at life-saving and swimming classes, and took great interest in teaching and helping the younger boys to swim. Fred was a first-class Scout and had gained his full number of badges for his King’s badge. Every boy in the Troop will miss him. He was kind and gentle, and would go a long way to assist another human being. I only wish he had more Scouts made of the same mettle as Fred Hopkins was. We may be quite sure that Fred, who was our affection on earth, will find a safe haven… - The Hampshire Independent, 27 April 1912
A few months after Fred’s loss his parents were gifted with another child, Robert Arthur, who was welcomed on 15 July 1912.
Fred’s parents later benefitted from the Titanic Relief Fund. With the outbreak of WWI in 1914 his ever-resilient father was keen to serve his country yet again and re-enlisted for service in September 1914 aged 43; this time, however, he was deemed unfit for military service after catching “a chill”. His health never fully recovered and he died on 15 February 1915 at his home, still 14 Fanshawe Street.
The Hampshire Advertiser, 20 February 1915
Fred's mother Letitia remained in Southampton until her death in 1945. His brother George later settled in Saskatchewan but died at a young age in 1925. Younger brother Ralph later served during WWI and eventually died in Chelsea, London in 1975. His posthumously born brother Robert later became a civil servant and died in Lambeth, London in 1972.