The Unfortunate Sons of Margaret Hamilton

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The memorial plaque in St Leonard’s church to the husband and sons of Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Elizabeth Mary Hamilton nee Cragg was born in Stoke Damarel, Devon, the eldest of the five daughters of Rear-Admiral John Bettinson Cragg and his wife Margaret. They lived in Molesworth Terrace, a street of sturdy Victorian villas. She married Thomas Bramston Hamilton, an officer in the Royal Artillery in her home town on 2 June 1864 and as a married woman travelled with him as his military postings took him round the UK, to Ireland, Shorncliffe, Sheerness and finally to Bitterne in Hampshire. Here, Thomas bought Bitterne Grove, a house and estate of about thirty acres,  for £6,600 in 1877 and the last five of their eleven children were born there.

Bitterne Grove

Thomas, who by then had left the army, became president of the Church Missionary Society and of the Church of England Temperance Society and Honorary Secretary of the Bitterne Conservative Association before dying aged only forty-seven on 2 April 1884. It was the first of many losses for Margaret. Edith, her second daughter, died at Bitterne Grove in 1889, aged twenty-two, and five years later, Margaret’s sister, Fanny, died there during a visit.

Margaret moved to Hythe in about 1899. Why is unknown, but she was familiar with the area from her husband’s Shorncliffe posting in the 1870s, when she had had lived in Sandgate. Just before his death, her husband had arranged to buy a house in Hythe, though whether that was the Old Manor House, which the house she moved into, we do not know (1). It is a seventeenth century house just down the hill from St Leonard’s church, where she could manage with just four live-in servants instead of the small army needed to maintain the house and grounds at Bitterne Grove.

The Old Manor House, Hythe

Her third daughter, Hilda Blanche, who is buried with her, married Robert Miles C. Moss, of the Egyptian civil service, in the church in 1899 and the youngest daughter, Gladys, married there in 1903, to Captain (later Lt Col) Arthur Cyril Alington.

Between these two happy events, Margaret had lost three of her seven sons in South Africa.
Kenneth, who had presumably emigrated to Ceylon, joined the Ceylon Mounted Infantry when the Boer War broke out, as a private. Early in January 1900 the Legislative Council of Ceylon unanimously agreed to send a contingent of 125 to South Africa and the Company sailed on 2nd February. The Ceylon Mounted Infantry joined Lord Roberts while he was advancing on Bloemfontein, in time to be present at the engagement of Poplar Grove. On 6th March Lord Roberts wired to Ceylon: “I have just ridden out to meet Ceylon Mounted Infantry and welcome them to this force. They look most workmanlike, and are a valuable addition to Her Majesty the Queen’s Army in South Africa”. The squadron was one of those praised by Lord Roberts in the despatch of 31st March 1900 for good work on the way to Bloemfontein, but for Kenneth it was the end of the road. He died there of enteric fever on 15 May 1900.

His slightly younger brother Ernest, meanwhile, had emigrated to Natal, where he lived in Eshowe, a fairly new European settlement. When war broke out, he joined Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, an irregular corps of 356 British men, on 20 November 1899. Exactly six months later, he was dead, killed in action at Scheepers Nek.

Alastair, the second son, joined the British army on 15 November 1899, a month after the war broke out and served as a second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The war ended in May 1902, and he resigned his commission in September that year and became a cattle farmer in Carolina in the Transvaal (now Mpumalanga). He was killed by lightning on his farm, Welteveden, on 5 December 1902. The farm was sold after his death for £566, but Alastair had only £12 in cash at the time of his death. The money went to his eldest brother, James.

Alastair and his brothers are commemorated on one memorial at Mpumalanga and there is another at the cemetery at Scheepers Nek which is a reproduction of one in the President Brand cemetery in Bloemfontein.

The memorial to the Hamilton brothers at Mpumalanga (which has been incorrectly assembled). 

The compound at Scheepers Nek where there is another memorial

Money, or the lack of it, played a part in the brothers’ decisions to try life in the colonies. Only James, the eldest son, could expect to inherit. The other six needed to fend for themselves, and emigration was becoming a popular route to a better life for young men of all classes and backgrounds. Two of the sons did follow in their father’s footsteps and join the regular army. James obtained a commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but resigned it in 1890. Patrick, the youngest son, born in 1882, attended Sandhurst and obtained a commission with the Worcester Regiment in 1901. He was sent to Jhami in India and was promoted to captain in 1908. In 1911, he took an extended leave from his regiment, returned to the UK and started flying lessons. This was, at the time, very much a high-risk occupation. His eldest sister, Ethel, later asked their mother why she had not tried to dissuade him. According to Ethel, she replied ‘no one’s personal feelings ought ever to interfere with any man’s career provided it was an upright and honourable one to follow’.[2]

Patrick Hamilton

Patrick then bought his own plane, a French 30 hp single-seater Deperdussin monoplane, constructed mostly of wood, canvas and wire and took it to the USA . His travelling companion was George Miller Dyott, another flier, who shipped his own Deperdussin, a two-seater. Together, they made an exhibition tour, stopping for a while in Nassau and in Mexico. A feature of the Nassau exhibition was a night flight in the two-seater, with Patrick as passenger, carrying a searchlight powered from the ground via cables.

Patrick at the controls of his plane. 

Their success was variable, and came to an end when in December 1911 Patrick’s plane flipped over in mid-air and crash landed. He was unhurt, but the plane was damaged beyond repair. He returned to England in the following February. He almost immediately joined the Royal Flying Corps. In summer, he achieved his Special Aviator’s Certificate and was promoted to Flight commander with a salary of £450 a year. At about the same time, in June 1912, he announced his engagement to twenty-year-old Derryle Elizabeth Law of Atlanta, Georgia, to whom he had been introduced by George Dyott in Long Island the previous year.

On 6 September 1912, he and his observer took off in his Deperdussin monoplane from an airfield in Berkshire as part of a large military exercise. Shortly afterwards, the plane started to disintegrate in mid-air and both he and his observer were killed in the ensuing crash. An engine rod had sheared off and torn out a piece of the engine which hit one of the wing struts.

A service for Patrick and his observer was held in Hitchin, which Derryle attended and then their coffins were placed on a gun carriage and accompanied by a large military escort taken to the railway station. Patrick was to be buried in Hythe with full military honours. Derryle was not present at the ceremony, but sent flowers. Hythe Town Council expressed their sympathy to Margaret Hamilton, and so did the King, George V. In December, Patrick’s eldest sister, Ethel, published a memoir of his life,  A Tribute to a Soldier and Aviator.

Patrick’s funeral at St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

In his will Patrick left £1199. 9s 8d, with probate granted to his executors, his brother-in-law Arthur Alington and a solicitor. Perhaps his affairs were complicated, as they did not apply for probate until 1914. As soon as they did so, a bombshell fell. Derryle sued them for breach of contract, saying she was owed £600. She said Patrick had settled this amount on her but had not paid it. The case went to court.  She said that she and Patrick had become engaged in December 1911 and planned to marry in Washington DC in February 1912. Announcements had been made to family and friends. Then Patrick went off to Mexico, and while there wrote to his family in England about his plans. They replied that marrying would adversely affect his chances of Army promotion.

After the crash in Mexico, which cost him his plane and his career as a show pilot, Patrick returned to the States. He suggested to Derryle that she go back to England with him. He would re-join his regiment, and they would travel together to India, where they would be married. Derryle was having none of it: she wanted to be married with family and friends around her.

Derryle Law

Patrick then offered to give Derrlye £600 if she would agree to postponing the marriage. She accepted this and he signed a declaration before a notary in Philadelphia in February 1912. Two weeks before this he had received a telegram from his mother, who was in Cairo visiting her daughter Hilda. She wrote ‘I implore postponement. Money lost.’ Presumably she was to some extent reliant on Patrick’s income which would be lost to her if he married and she seemed to be in straitened financial circumstances. .


Patrick’s settlement of £600 

Patrick brought Derryle and her mother back to England with him. The engagement was announced in the Morning Post and Mrs Law and Derryle met Margaret Hamilton and her daughters. It was not a successful rendezvous. A little later, Patrick telephoned Derryle and told her he could not marry her because all they would have to live on would be ‘a bucketful of debts’. Mrs Law and Mrs Hamilton exchanged venomous letters, each blaming the other’s offspring for the breakdown of the relationship. In court, Derryle was clear that she blamed Margaret Hamilton and her daughters for bringing pressure to bear on Patrick.

Derryle won her case. Why did she bring it? For money, possibly, though she and her mother already had an income of £1200 a year from her late father’s estate. For revenge on the Hamiltons? It seems more likely.

Five years later, Margaret sold the Old Manor House and all its contents, furniture, china, linen, right down to decanters and fire irons, and went to live in Dene Cottage, just along the road. She died soon afterwards and was buried with Patrick.

Hilda, who is also commemorated on their grave, did not die until 1966. She had returned with her husband from Egypt and lived in ‘Marsh View’ in Hythe.

The grave of Patrick Hamilton, his mother Margaret and his sister Hilda. The cross has not fallen – it was placed at an angle on a stone slab – perhaps to resemble a plane. The inscriptions read: Patrick Hamilton, Capt Worcestershire Regt Royal Flying Corps killed on duty Sept 6th 1912
Also Margaret Elizabeth Mary/widow of Major Bramston Hamilton/entered into rest May 13th 1920/aged 73 years
Take thy rest in safety Job XI.18
In loving memory/of/Hilda Blanche/Moss/1871-1966

The other daughters, Ethel and Gladys died in 1939 and 1971 respectively. Of the surviving brothers, there is little trace. James and Ian disappear from the records, though Thomas was for a while a market gardener in Essex. None of them attended Patrick’s funeral or sent flowers and the plaque commemorating Margaret in St Leonard’s church is from her daughters only. Perhaps they, too, had emigrated.

The plaque to Margaret Hamilton, beneath that of her husband and sons,

Derryle went back to America and a few years later married Carey Brown, a professional soldier who later became a colonel. They had two sons, both of whom joined the US Air Force. In a terrible twist of fate, both were killed in air accidents during Derryle’s lifetime.

George Miller Dyott gave up flying for a living, went to Ecuador and became an explorer.

(1) Kent Archives: EK2008/2/105

[2] Ethel Hamilton: A Tribute to a Soldier and Aviator 1913

The Fortunes of War

Daniel Stringer Lyth was born in Richmond, Yorkshire to Robert, a shoemaker and Louisa nee Stringer and baptised there on 2 October 1864, their second son and fifth child. The family lived in King Street, just off the market place. Louisa died when Daniel was only four. In January 1872, he was admitted to the National School in Richmond, and on leaving worked as a farm labourer. He then joined the army, serving with the 4th West Yorkshire regiment. The doctor who examined him reported that the whole of his chest was scarred. This is likely to have caused by burning. Nineteenth century newspapers abound with stories of children falling into fires, often with fatal results.

He did not like the life and bought himself out, but then changed his mind again and re-enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifles on 12 July 1886, signing up for twelve years. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall, with dark grey eyes and dark brown hair. He did not immediately settle here, either, and In December the same year spent a month in prison for an unspecified offence. Thereafter, though, he kept out of trouble. Three years later he was sent to Manipur in north-east India, a princedom which was part of the British Empire and almost continually at war with its neighbours, including Burma, which was Daniel’s next posting.

He was sent home in 1892 and spent the last six years of his service in the UK, being promoted to Lance-Corporal in 1892. Probably some of this time was at Shorncliffe barracks near Folkestone in Kent, because on 9 May 1893, at St Leonard’s church in Hythe, he married a local woman, Hannah Cloke, a dressmaker. A daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1895; another, Christine, in July 1896; and a son, another Daniel Stringer Lyth on 7 August 1898. Exactly a month before, Daniel senior was discharged from the army, having completed his time.

Daniel took an unusual job to supplement his army pension, that of verger at St Leonard’s church, responsible for the order and upkeep of the church, including its furnishings, and grave-digging responsibilities. He also showed visitors around the crypt at the church, which contained (and still does) an extraordinary collection of skulls and long bones. He was present during the 1912 visit by Dr Cross, a well-known phrenologist, who claimed to be able to detect the character of individuals through examination of their heads. Cross opined that the owners of most of the skulls in the crypt had ‘the spirit of warfare’ in them and that one woman was ‘very crafty and cunning and would not have hesitated to kill her husband.’

Some of the skulls at the ossuary in Hythe

The family lived at first in the Hythe High Street and later in Marine Walk Street. Here another son, named for Daniel’s father was born, but little John Robert died aged only seven months in March 1902 and is buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.  There would be no more children

Daniel also worked for a while as Town Sergeant, but it was not a long tenure. This may have been because he was frequently at odds with Hythe Town Council and aired his opinions in the local press. In 1912, by which time he had moved to’ Craigside’ at 1 Castle Road, the Council suggested that as his steps encroached onto the pavement, he should pay an annual ‘acknowledgement’ of two shillings and sixpence, as was usual. He said it was too much and refused to answer the Council’s letters, before offering to pay sixpence. The Council refused his offer and told him to pay the full amount or demolish the steps – which he did. In 1917 he became exercised by the council’s plans to remove vehicle access to Castle Road from the south. Another drawn-out battle ensued, which this time Daniel won, with removable posts to which he had a key supplied. He was described in one newspaper report as ‘gloomy’ and in his obituary as a ‘silent and reserved man’, though to be scrupulously fair, another reporter said he had seen him laugh.

The years of the first world war were to prove devastating for the family. Just before its start, in July 1914,  Dorothy Lyth died aged only nineteen and was buried in Saltwood churchyard (‘Craigside’ was in the ecclesiastical parish of Saltwood by a few yards).

When war broke out, Daniel was still a reservist but too old to be called up. Instead he joined the Cinque Ports Battalion of the Kent Volunteer Force as its Second-in-Command. He combined this with his on-going work as a verger. In the early evening of 25 May1917, twenty-three German Gotha bombers, unable to find their London targets in thick cloud, turned south, followed the railway line to the Channel ports. They dropped bombs en route, including at Hythe, where Daniel was chatting to the vicar, Herbert Dale, and Mrs Dale just outside the church. Daniel was struck in the thigh by a piece of shrapnel. His femoral artery was severed and though he was taken to hospital in Folkestone and operated on, he succumbed that night.

The bombers finished the job in Folkestone, killing sixty-one people, mostly women and children queuing for potatoes.

A map of the raid which killed Daniel Lyth

Daniel was buried in Saltwood churchyard, the service being read by Herbert Dale, who had survived because he had a tin box in his pocket which deflected the shrapnel which hit him.

Daniel’s grave

Daniel junior had by now left home. He was an apprentice seaman with Cardille Turnbull & Sons from November 1914, but was released from his articles when he joined up on 2 March 1915 at Dover. He was then living at Wouldham near Rochester. His surviving sister, Christine, joined him there. He did his initial training at Aldershot and passed out in June 1915. He was recorded as being 5ft 8 inches tall with a dark complexion and dark brown hair- exactly as his father had been at his age.

He originally asked to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps and sailed from Southampton on 21 September 1915 to Rouen. He transferred to the Buffs in October 1917 at his own request. Daniel, again like his father before him, found it hard at first to settle into army life and was often in trouble for minor offences. He was on leave in the UK from 2 February 1918 to 17 Feb 1918 but was killed in action two months later. His body was recovered and his personal effects – a silver watch, a wallet, dictionary, compass and map – returned to his mother. Perhaps he was buried, though in the turmoil the grave was lost.

Daniel is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium which bears the names of some 35,000 men of the British and New Zealand forces who have no known grave, nearly all of whom died between August 1917 and November 1918. Both Daniel and his father are named on the Hythe War Memorial.

See the source image

Hythe War Memorial


Daniel’s misspelt name on the Tyne Cot Memorial

(Folkestone Family History Society)

By the end of the war, the Lyth family had only two members left alive, Hannah and Christine. After Daniel junior had joined up, Christine, who had excelled at school, went to the Bishop Otter Training College in Chichester to train as a teacher.

Bishop Otter College, an establishment for women students

After she had qualified she stayed in Sussex, living and teaching in Hove, and was joined there by her widowed mother. When Christine retired she and her mother moved to Wallington in Surrey, where Hannah died aged ninety-seven in 1961 and Christine in 1976.

Slavery and Elastic Pavements: Miles Brathwaite

Miles Brathwaite as a young man (

Miles Brathwaite was the third son of the Hon. General Miles Brathwaite (1771-1848), a sugar planter in the Christ Church and St Philip’s parishes of Barbados. He was born there in 1803. His father was always designated ‘honourable’ because he was a member of the island’s privy council; he had no connection with the peerage and his own father, Robert Brathwaite (1723-1791) was also a plantation owner. Miles senior owned one estate, Palmers, and was tenant for life of another, Three Houses. Like all Barbadian planters he relied on slaves to work his land. John Brathwaite, possibly a brother of Miles senior, another  plantation and slave owner and agent for the island, travelled to London in 1788 to give testimony to the British government’s inquiry into slavery. Predictably, he painted a rosy picture:

He stated that prior to about 1768 the treatment of slaves was marked by much more cruelty than since that date. The wanton killing of a slave in Barbadoes (sic) remained nevertheless, by law of August 8, 1788, punishable by a fine of 15 Pounds Sterling only. It was not uncommon, he said, for slaves to suffer for food when corn [bread stuff] was high or a sugar crop failed. Industrious Negroes, of course, raised some provisions, hogs, and poultry about their own huts or on allotments. Even so, he thought a slave was as well off as a free Negro and better than an English labourer with a family. (1)








Harvesting sugar cane in Barbados. Note the overseer’s whip.



Miles junior appears to have joined the Royal Navy, but his service records are not extant, though his portrait (above) as a very young man seems to show him in a naval uniform. He married, on 13 December 1823, Elizabeth Jane Welch. Over the next twenty-two years, they had twelve children together.

The Slavery Abolition Act became law on 1 August 1834, but this did not mean automatic bankruptcy for the Barbados slavers. Two things saved them. In the first place, the British government paid compensation to slave owners for their ‘loss’. Miles senior was awarded £3860 for the one hundred and seventy enslaved people he owned at Palmers and tried to claim over £5000 for those at Three Houses, but this was declined.  In the second place, only children were actually immediately freed. Adults had to serve a six-year ‘apprenticeship’ on terms very little better than slavery before they were freed.

Miles junior may, or may not, have had a share in the compensation. By then he was in business as a merchant in Chepstow Street, Barbados, running two businesses, one alone and another as a partner. He gave his address then as Fortress Terrace, Kentish Town, London. The 1841 census confirms his residence in Kentish Town, but by then his businesses must have gone under, as he is recorded as having no trade or occupation. Elizabeth and their six surviving children were with him. The family moved then to Camden, then on to Pentonville and in 1843, Miles became a director of The Elastic Pavement Company. Although this sounds like a 1970s rock album produced under the influence of LSD, in fact it manufactured, among other things, rubber flooring for stables and a lifeboat made of rubber and cork, which was allegedly unsinkable and, if it hit a rock, would just bounce back.

The company was in trouble by 1845 and by February 1846 was reporting losses of over £5000, while insisting that it needed to increase its capital in order to fulfil ‘large orders from Her Majesty’s government’. It struggled on but was wound up in 1849. This made little difference to Miles, who had been committed to a debtors’ prison in 1846. This was probably at Whitecross Street in Islington, which had the reputation of being the worst in London.

Whitecross Street Prison

Salvation came in an unlikely form when in January 1847 he was appointed as Commander of the Coastguard at Fort Twiss in Hythe. The Coastguard had been set up in 1822 as an anti-smuggling operation, and its instructions also stipulated that when a wreck took place the Coast Guard was responsible for taking all possible action to save lives, taking charge of the vessel and protecting property. Station commanders were generally serving Royal Navy lieutenants and were expected to enforce naval discipline. What qualifications Miles had for the job beyond a brief naval career some years earlier is unclear. It is likely that the post was secured for him through well-placed connections, a common enough practice in the nineteenth century.

Fort Twiss Battery was constructed on Hythe seafront in 1798, a small triangular fort surrounded by a three-and-a-half metre high wall. Miles lived there with Elizabeth Jane and the five youngest of their children – two more had been born in London and one in Hythe. Also living at the fort were six subordinate men with their wives and families. It cannot have been luxurious, compared to a sunny plantation in Barbados served by slaves: there was not even a piped water supply (Miles wrote to Hythe corporation asking for this in 1853) (2). But he had a roof over his head and regular income to support his diminishing family. Only five of his twelve children reached adulthood, and those who did often headed back to the West Indies. While he was in prison, his eldest daughter, another Elizabeth Jane, married a scion of a plantation family, Langford Redwood, who had inherited Cassada Garden plantation in Antigua. He died at sea only two years after the marriage en route to England and Elizabeth married another Antiguan planter.


Miles died at Fort Twiss on 26 March 1857. He left no will, and his widow either could not or would not pay for a headstone: this was financed by ‘family and friends’.

The inscription on Miles’s gravestone in St Leonard’s churchyard reads: Sacred to the memory of/Miles Brathwaite/(late RN)/ this tablet is erected by sor-/rowing family and friends/who are cheered with the hope/that from his excellent life, his/firm faith and pious resignation/to the Divine Will, the beloved one is “not lost but gone before”

Elizabeth Jane, now homeless, went at first to live in Croydon, but then moved in with her by now twice widowed daughter Elizabeth in West Derby in Liverpool, where she died in 1879.

And in December 1857, Hythe Council finally agreed to provide piped water to Fort twiss.

(1) Slavery on British West Indies Plantations in the Eighteenth Century, Frank Wesley Pitman, Journal of Negro History, Volume Number: 11 Issue Number: 4, October 1926.

2. Kent Archives Hy/AM/2/1