Man behind the painting of injured soldiers’ return
This painting of wounded soldiers arriving at Maidstone East Station during the First World War was recently used in an exhibition at Maidstone Museum to teach schoolchildren about the Great War, in this the centenary year.
What not all the painting’s admirers may have realised is that the artist, Frank Hyde, who lived locally, was depicting a real incident and the civilians in the painting greeting the soldiers were real townsfolk.
Among them are Mr. F.T. Travers, Dr Pye Oliver, Bernard Haynes and Mr J.T. Pickard, who were the stationmaster and ambulancemen of the time.
The wounded had received only immediate first aid care on the battlefield and were distributed among local hospitals when they reached Maidstone.
The painting was one of several by Hyde about the First World War – another famous picture, entitled The Bugle Boy, depicted 14-yearold Charles Timmins playing his instrument aboard HMS Cardiff while under shellfire.
The lad, who came from Gillingham, was killed in the action and became a local hero.
Another, entitled First Battalion, the Royal West Kent, at Neuve Chapelle, 1914, again depicted a Maidstone officer, Lt H.A.H. White from Barming, leading the West Kents in a charge. But his First World War paintings came towards the end of a long career for Hyde, who was perhaps more famous for his depictions of Capri, for his humorous illustrations made for a greetings card manufacturer and for his allegorical paintings.
Frank Hyde was born in 1849, the eldest of six sons for Captain John Francis Hyde and Elizabeth Gudge. Hyde who grew to be 6ft 8in, very tall for that era, spent his young life between London and the family’s 1,500-acre country estate Hyde End Manor in Berkshire.
He gave up a career in the Royal Engineers when he was asked by the Graphic illustrated newspaper to sketch scenes from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. His drawings from the frontline – including of the Battle of Sedan – were sent back to appear in the paper.
Hyde married Constance Fellgate in November, 1876, but she died less than a year later. Five years on, he married Florence Rowley, a niece of Admiral Rowley, and the couple had two children, a daughter Mina and a son named Francis Angerstein Clarendon Rowley-Hyde.
Hyde travelled widely, to Italy, Australia and Western Samoa and was an intimate friend of many of the leading artists of the day, notably the American John Singer Sargent, with whom he shared a studio in Capri. Both he and Sargent used a local girl named Rosina Ferrara as a model. Miss Ferrara was said to be a direct descendant of the 16th century pirate Barbarossa.
Several of Hyde’s works were exhibited at the Royal Academy. As well as painting the scenes he saw, he also wrote travel articles. He moved to Kent in 1913.
When he died in September 4, 1937, he was living at Petts Wood Cottage in Stockbury.
His obituary in the Kent Messenger described him “as a versatile artist with a big reputation”.
His funeral service was held at St Francis RC Church in Week Street, Maidstone, and he is buried in Maidstone Cemetery, in Sutton Road.
The painting shows the arrival of a convoy of wounded soldiers at Maidstone East Station
Artist Frank Hyde