The Hyson Brothers?

An interesting little story has transpired from my WW1 dead research.

Before the widespread use of motor vehicles, Railways were used during the First World War to transport men an materiel quickly around to the front line, and then around the front quickly as threats arose. To operate these military railways a large specialist service sprang up within the Royal Engineers.

Sapper F.C. Hyson, from Portsmouth, was serving with 98th Light Train Crew Company Royal Engineers when he died on 31 December 1917. He is buried at Alexandria in Egypt. The train crew companies made up the drivers, fireman and other crew members of the trains.

Sergeant R.H. Hyson, a resident of 34 Gladstone Road, Mile End, was serving with 19th Railway Operating Company Royal Engineers when he died on 30 December 1917. He was 32. He is buried at Salonika in Greece. The Railway Operating Companies were responsible for operating the tracks, stations and signalling.

It seems a huge coincidence to find two men, with the same surname, from the same city, serving in the Railway units of the Royal Engineers. Is it possible that the men were brothers who worked on the Railways pre-war and volunteered or were conscripted for their skills and experience? Its not uncommon to find whole families who worked on the Railways. Lets see what we can find out!

Although we only know the mens intials, we do know that at least one of them lived at 34 Gladstone Road, Mile End.

One way to check whether the men were related is to find their birth records on FreeBMD, and see if they have the same parents. According to FreeBMD Frederick Chares Hyson was born in Portsea Island in either January, February or March 1894. This would make him 23 when he died. Sadly, his record has no mention of his parents. I can find no entry for R.H. Hyson.

According to the 1901 census, Frederick Charles Hyson was living in Portsmouth, and was 7. Robert Henry Hyson was 15, and an apprentice blacksmith – certainly the kind of skill that would come in handy working on the railways. Apparently he was born in Aldershot. The age fits exactly if he was 32 when he died in 1917, so back to FreeBMD to check for Hysons born in Aldershot!

According to FreeBMD Robert Henry Hyson was born in the Farnham registration district – which at that time included Aldershot – in either July, August or September 1885. Again, the dates match perfectly. But no clue as to his parents!

Its looking like I will have to check electoral rolls and street directories to see whether there is any connection between Frederick and Robert Hyson, but at this stage it is not impossible. It would be a huge quirk of fate indeed if two men from the same city with the same rare surname died within a day of each other, serving in the same specialist arm of the Royal Engineers.

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15 Comments

Filed under Army, Family History, portsmouth heroes, railway history, World War One

15 responses to “The Hyson Brothers?

  1. Sandra Goodall

    I think these were Robert Henry Hyson b. 1885 Farnham, Surrey and his brother Frederick Charles Hyson b. 1894 Portsmouth, the sons of Joseph Richard Hyson and his wife Mary Seale who were living at 96 Goodwood Road, Portsmouth in 1901. Their sister Victoria b. 1897 Portsmouth was the wife of Henry Francis James Goodall, brother of Alfred Peter Goodall, my husband’s grandfather. Thanks you for adding some interesting although sad information about the Hyson brothers. regards, Sandra Goodall

  2. James Daly

    Hi Sandra, thank you very much for the additional information about Robert and Frederick.

    Do you know if they worked on the railways in civilian life?

    James

  3. Sandra Goodall

    Hello James, Thanks for your reply. I don’t know if they worked on the railway in civilian life. It’s a coincidence that you researched them recently and I have only just added them to my family tree after contacting Victoria Hyson’s grandaughter on a family tree site. I’ll ask her if she knows any more about them. I think Frederick married a lady called Maud Plain just a year earlier in 1916. regards, Sandra

  4. James Daly

    Hi Sandra, it is a coincidence indeed. As you may have noticed I have been researching the people of Portsmouth who died in WW1.

    Given that both of the Hyson brothers died with the Railway Companies I have a hunch that they were railwaymen in civilian life. Census returns and marriage certificates would contain their occupations.

    James

  5. Steve Morton

    Hi James,
    It’s such a coincidence… I saw your forthcoming appearance in Waterstone’s advertised yesterday, the same day I heard that a second cousin of mine had been doing some family history research and came across your web page!
    back in May 2010. you posted some information about the Hyson brothers who died within a day of each other in WW1. These guys were my Great Uncles (My mum’s uncles on her dad’s side). I’ve done a little research if you are interested… but I haven’t checked if they were both railway men before the war (as you suggested they might have been). Hyson was my mum’s maiden name. She has a wealth of information about this side of the family, but your blog was the first she had read about her two uncles dying within a day of each other. (One of them died from yellow fever I believe). if you, or any of your blog followers wishes to share info, that would be great!
    Looking forward to buying and reading your new book … very best of luck with this.
    On a slightly different note, I am busy researching (in detail) the lives of the French Prisoners of war at Portchester Castle. This is partly because I’ve loved the romance of the castle ever since I was a kid, but also because I’m currently undertaking an MA in screenwriting, and a true story ( a work of “faction”, to be precise) based on the castle’s prisoners is the basis of my latest script ( and final MA assignment). I mention all this in case you may be interested in this aspect of local history (ordinary people with global historical events as a backdrop).
    best wishes
    Steve Morton

    • James Daly

      Hi Steve, thank you for your comment. Funnily enough I have been doing a bit more research recently about the Hyson brothers. I can confirm from the 1911 census that Robert was definitely a Signalman. I can’t find anything about Frederick unfortunately, but I have a hunch that they were a railway family. There might be some more avenues via which we might be able to confirm this.

      I also found out about how they died. It turns out that Frederick was on a troop transport ship that were sunk in Alexandria Harbour, the SS Osmanieh. Therefore it seems that Robert may have been the brother who died of yellow fever. I will have a look through my files and see what other information I have and email you my notes, anything else that you or your mum might be able to add would be fascinating!

      Regarding Portchester Castle, I actually grew up less than a mile away in Paulsgrove. I am very interested in the Castle, I actually did a GCSE History project on it. Your story sounds interesting.

      Best wishes

      James

      • Chris Hyson

        Hello james
        Have just come across your site whilst doing family research.Also interested to see comments from Grace and Steve.
        Fills in a bit more jigsaw for me but I too have some pieces.
        Confirm they were brothers. Robert Henry, my grandfather , did work on the railway (London and South Western Railway ). He enlisted in 1915 and joined a Railway operating company of RE and as you have found out died in Salonika Military Hospital. His service record is in the National Archive at Kew and confirms he died of dysentry with a number of admissions and discharges from hospital. He is commemorated on the Roll Of Honour at Waterloo Station. Also named on war memorial in All Saints Church Portsmouth
        I do not have as much info about Frederick except to confirm he was a brother and also joined railway company of RE .I knew he had been on a troop ship but did not know name .I have been unable to trace whether he worked on railway before enlistment but I suspect not.
        Both brothers are commemorated on memorial to those lost in The Great War in Guildhall square Portsmouth.
        One more interesting fact. A couple of years ago I came into possession of the Commemorative Plaque awarded to Frederick’s Widow Maud.
        She remarried after his death and had a son who then married. The plaque had been handed down through the generations and by chance a relative of mine lived close to the last keeper of the plaque. A chance discussion about the unusual surname led me to look at it and I was able to confirm who Frederick was and that I was a relative(Gt. Nephew). sadly the scroll was not with it. the rest is history as they say.
        Hope this is of interest to rveryone.
        Best Wishes
        Chris Hyson

  6. Grace Hyson

    They are brothers, Robert is my great great grandfarther and Fredrick is my great great great uncle. My grandad has done the research about them and they are brothers

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