John Hopwood (1878 – 1958)

Imperial Army - Boy Soldier to Regimental Sergeant Major

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John Hopwood, the youngest child of William Edwin Hopwood and Eliza Brasier Van Wyck, was born on October 28, 1878 at Saindon Hills, Orsett, Essex, near London, England. His father is listed on the birth record as a 'farmer' at this time, although his principle occupation had been as a 'butcher'. The 1881 British Census lists John along with his seven brothers and sisters, his father and his Aunt Petronella Sophia Lindsey (nee Van Wyck), as residing at Perseverance Terrace, Goldsmith Road in Leyton. His mother Eliza is not listed in the census. His father William is listed as a "meat salesman, butcher". John’s male ancestors were butchers living in the London area and trace back, at the moment, to the 18th century. His mother's people were of Dutch origin, her father Frederick Van Wyck was a "Clerk" employed on the London Docks near Lambeth. Nothing is known of John’s early years.

Army Service – 1st Period

John spent much of his life serving in the British military, principally as a non-commissioned officer in various regiments, and ending with the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major during the 1914-1918 Great War. Copies of his official army service records shed some light on his life with the military.

He joined the Royal Leicestershire Regiment in February of 1893 for the stipulated "12 Years with the Colours". At 14 years of age John was posted as a "Boy" soldier and a "drummer". As a musician he was a member of an army band during the early years of his service. He was promoted to the rank of "Lance Corporal" on December 10, 1897.

During the next few years he experienced some ups and downs in his army fortunes reverting to "Private" and re-appointed to "Lance Corporal" on several occasions. The several shifts from "disciplinary" matters to "good conduct" awards suggest he was an active, spirited individual. His good conduct pay was revoked in June 1899 and restored in June 1900. He reverted to Private and in March1902 he was again made a Lance Corporal finally attaining the rank of Corporal in October 1902. He made Lance Sergeant in 1905. His record appears to suggest that he lacked self-discipline early in his career. However, John must have displayed leadership qualities otherwise it is doubtful that he would be reinstated to higher rank and pay so many times and finally reaching the rank of Acting Regimental Sergeant Major prior to his final discharge in 1917.

From February 1900 to December 1902 he served in Egypt. He then returned and served in Britain. He passed instruction for Corporal in 1902 and for Sergeant in 1903. John ‘re-engaged’ with the Leicester Regiment at Guernsey in September 1904 agreeing to a term of 21 years. During the period back in England he was transferred to the Royal Welsh Regiment in 1906 and was stationed at Colchester for a time. He attended the school of musketry in 1909 where he became proficient using the "Maxim" gun.

John was again assigned to Egypt in December 1909 and remained there until January 1912. He returned "home" in January 1912 and remained there until February 1914. Upon his discharge at Cardiff, Wales (1914), at the termination of his second period of engagement, his character was assessed as "exemplary". John had completed his 21-year stint with the Army (1893-1914). He was awarded a Long Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. His record notes that upon his discharge he intended to reside at 101 West Green Road, South Tottenham, London N. His next of kin is listed as his brother James Hopwood of 101 Grove Road, Bow, London.

John’s personal medical and physical information is of interest. Army medical records list John at height 5 feet 8 ½ inches with an expanded chest girth of 43 inches. He was of fair complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. Mention is made of distinctive marks such as scars on his head. The record showed a onetime fracture of his left arm. The records list John as a member of the Church of England. His army records indicate that he never married while in service.

Army – 2nd Period

With the commencement of World War I, John joined the "Territorial Force" (8th Reserve Battalion, Royal Middlesex Regiment) in Britain in September 1914. Since his discharge from the Welsh Regiment in February, he worked as an Engineer employed by L. Adams of Hampstead and he resided at 101 West Green Road, Tottenham, London. He was now 36 years of age. He not only listed his brother James at 101 Grove Road, Bow, as his next of kin; he also included his brother Henry at 45 Grove Rd, Tottenham, as well. After remaining with the Territorial Force in England until January 1915, he was stationed at Gibraltar with the Royal Middlesex Regiment until August 1915.  The family report that he served at Gallipoli during the 1st World War.

In December 1915 he was attached to the Staff of the Commandant, Base Details, at Alexandria, Egypt and appointed as Acting Regimental Sergeant Major (Middlesex Regiment, 7th Reserve Battalion), Base Depot. He was listed as a Company Quarter Master Sergeant at the time.  His record shows that he was a member of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. However, an undisclosed illness hospitalized him at Alexandria in July 1916. The sketchy military record failed to clearly identify the nature and circumstances of the illness.  The family has since disclosed that he suffered from an illness he contracted from "sand files" during the time he served at Gallipoli.

Leaving hospital he rejoined the regiment at Qamaria Camp about a month later and then again is depicted on "joining" the regiment again at Mustafa, one week later. Due to his illness, he had to relinquish his rank of Acting RSM at this time as he ‘ceased to be employed at Base Depot, W.F.F.’ John embarked for England on September 16, 1916, aboard the "H. T. Kingstonian" for a transfer to the "home" establishment.

He was discharged from the Army on March 17, 1917 at Hounslow. He was 38 years of age. He was considered no longer fit for war service. The Colonel appraised him as having a "very good" military character --- "An excellent man --- has done good services as a Warrant Officer". He informed the Army that he intended to reside at 66 Lorraine Mansions, Widdenham Road, Hornsey, North London.

John was awarded the "Silver War Badge" on April 5, 1917, which added to his "Long Service" and "Good Conduct" medals ending a 24-year career in the British Army. 

Recent contact with his family (2007) report that John did marry on October 8, 1916, to Jessie Mabel Vince.  This important event was not acknowledged by the army at the time of his discharge.  They where blessed with two children, Edith (birth date unknown) and, Francis John (1926).  Francis (Frank) married Lillian Frances Gray June 12, 1948 and were blessed with four children, Jean Susan (1952), Jennifer Ann (1954), Gillian Frances (1959) and Martin John (1970).  John passed away March 23, 1958 and Jessie Mabel died in 1972.

After military service John was appointed as a recruiting sergeant during WW I.  He was employed by the Royal Mint until he retired.  His love and attachment to his family was foremost.

some photos of John and the extended family



                                                                Edith and Nicky's Wedding


Above: Fig 1 - Rear L to R - Francis, Edith, Sid, Lizzie, Wyn, Jessie, Jim, Ethel & John.

                       Front L to R - Ada and Kate

           Fig 2 - Seated is James Frederick Hopwood --- Standing is his brother John Hopwood

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Descendants of the James, John and Thomas Hopwood Families Meet in UK - June 2009




                                              Service with the Welsh Regiment - ca 1907

John seated to the left of the bandmaster                                  Far left of photo - John marching at the head of the band


  John & Regimental Mascot                                         Manned Army Observation Kites (ca 1907)

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Additional Comment

Of interest to the Canadian branch of this Hopwood family --- John was the younger brother of Thomas Henry Hopwood who immigrated to the Kootenay region of British Columbia around 1908. Thomas’ wife Jessie (nee Traish) and the children joined him at Nelson British Columbia in May 1913. Except for a few photos and postcards prior to the Great War, it appears that Thomas and John lost contact with each other thereafter. See Thomas Henry Hopwood

Of interest to the American branch of this Hopwood family --- John's older sister Sophia Annie Brasier Hopwood, immigrated to Canada and married Richard Mann in 1889 at Glenwood, Manitoba. Shortly thereafter, Richard and Sophia immigrated to the United States in a covered wagon across the plains from Canada and settled on a homestead near Plentywood, Sheridan County, Montana, U.S.A., until their deaths in the late 1920’s.  see Sophia Mann/Hopwood

Compiled and Written by John Hopwood’s great nephew,
John Farrell Hopwood – North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - created August 2001, revised May 2003, December 2007 & December 2008.

The author wishes to thank Pamela Woolcombe of Pinner, Middlesex, for her research and assistance in gathering genealogical data on the Hopwood family, and in particular, for obtaining the military record of John Hopwood. Without her research skills and her personal enthusiasm, this family history information would have remained forever buried at the Public Records Office at Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England.  The author also wishes to thank  Jennifer, Gill and Jean (John's granddaughters) for their enthusiasm and help in providing additional information and photos associated with John's family, career and life.