Margaret Esther Hopper (1888 - 1980)

Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse in the Great War
Refugee from Singapore, as Mrs Hutton, during WW2

VAD Poster
VAD Poster

Margaret was born in 'Gorod Moskva', Moscow, Russia, 1 September 1888 to Allan Hopper and Esther Agnes, née Bernard.

Her grandfather William, had trained as a Mechanical Engineer and moved from Scotland to St Petersburg in 1842 to set up machinery in Cotton Mills. During 1847 he established a foundry which passed to his widow, Elizabeth, on his death in 1885. From 1882 her late husband had engaged in partnership with his two sons eventually to employ 450 men. Allan Hopper, Margaret's father also born in Moscow, became a Partner in the firm of W. Hopper & Co, in Russia.

By 1907 the family had acquired a residence in England - 'The Caen', The Common, Ashtead, (later called 'Lavendon', the first house on the corner of Ashtead Woods Road with an acre of which part became The Ridings development along Links Road). Reportedly, Allan Hopper took his own life during 1910* and for the 1911 Census Margaret is found with her Mother enumerated at Gwynne House, 11 West Street, Epsom.

Gwynne House, 11 West Street.
Gwynne House, 11 West Street in Juky 1970
Photographed by LR James and held in the Epsom and Ewell History Centre

Margaret E. Hopper joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the outbreak of WWI and she worked until May 1915 as whole time VAD Nurse at the Red House Auxiliary Hospital, Leatherhead. Having joined the Army, 6 June 1915 at 16 General Hospital Treport, she was transferred to 20 General Hospital Cannes in April 1916. After being returned home as a stretcher case suffering from para typhoid in July 1917, she resumed duties on 23 October 1917, going to to 4 Southern Hospital Plymouth until 7 April 1918. Subsequently she returned to France, joining 72 General Hospital Frouville as a Principal Matron's Secretary but transferred to 74 General Hospital with a new Principal Matron on 21. Later she joined a Matron in the Chief's Office at Boulogne.

She was awarded a 1915 ribbon, 2 white stripes - 1 red stripe , also Mentioned in a Despatch on 8 July 1919.

Family possessions in Moscow had been lost during the Russian Revolution but their iron foundry still existed in 2015.

Her marriage to Arthur James Scott Hutton came to be registered in London City for the June Quarter of 1922. According to the Dictionary of Scottish Architects: -
"[Her husband] retired from the Royal Engineers a Captain in September 1919. On 5 September he was appointed architect to the Imperial War Graves Commission in France Belgium and Germany, working under Sir Herbert Baker, Sir Reginald Blomfield and Sir Edwin Lutyens to execute their designs for British military cemeteries as well as designing and carrying out many himself. He designed 67 cemeteries including Marzargues Indian Cemetery, Longueval, Fricourt and the Memorial at Arques-la-Bataille. He also assisted Lorimer on cemeteries in Germany.

He left the Commission on 15 October 1926 when he was appointed to the Public Works Department in Kenya on the reconmmendation of Sir Herbert Baker. There he supervised the construction of all buildings designed by Baker under the Colony's Loan Programme, amounting to a total value of some 700,000 by 1935. He was elected FRIBA on 22 July of the latter year, his proposers being Baker, Blomfield and Thomas Lumsden Taylor.

By the late 1930s Hutton had transferred to a post as Senior Assistant Architect in the Public Works Department in Singapore, the Straits Settlement. In 1946 he was Government Architect, Malayan Union, Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. He returned to England on his retirement and was living in Surrey in 1950".
Whilst in Nairobi as the architect overseeing the building of Kenya's Government House (which later became State House) and the Law Courts in the late 1920s and into the 1930s children were born. After finishing those jobs, Arthur Hutton took a position with the City of London (when his three daughters attended Guildford High School) before moving to Singapore. There during the Japanese attack in World War 2, he had a narrow escape when the colony was overwhelmed.

His grandson Major Andrew Duncan, late 2nd KEO Gurkha Rifles, reported in 2010: -
"When the Japanese invasion was imminent his previous military experience led to an Emergency Commission in the army as Lieutenant Colonel. It was his job to organise the civilian evacuation. He sent his family to safety in Australia on one of the early boats to depart Singapore. There my mother joined the WAAAF with who she served as a rdio operator, leaving at the end of the war as a Corporal.

My grandfather stayed to the bitter end, finally boarding the S.S. Kuala on 14 February 1942. Following the sinking of Kuala and with the permission of the other survivors, he and a couple of companions made for Sumatra. Landing on the East coast, they made their way through the jungle, avoiding the advancing Japanese to the West coast of the island where they acquired a fishing boat from a local kampong, planning to sail to Australia. After 3 days at sea they were fortunate to be picked up by an Australian Navy Destroyer and taken to Ceylon. From there my grandfather was at last able to inform his family that he was still alive and had successfully escaped from Singapore.

His adventures did not end there, nor was he able to travel to Australia to rejoin the family. Instead he was ordered to England where he underwent Special Operations training prior to being parachuted into Malaya behind Japanese lines to join Force 136. He was on hand to re-start the civilian government of Singapore after the Japanese surrender and must have been one of the first members of the Singapore government to report for work after the Japanese surrender."
The death of Esther A. Hopper, 10 December 1929, was registered in Epsom District, 12/1929.

From 1950 the Huttons lived at Acorns, The Highlands, East Horsley, Surrey. Margaret died in the district on 8 June 1980, aged 91, and Arthur two years later.

Brian Bouchard © October 2017


*The Times, 15 November 1910 recorded that 'Two months ago a prosperous millowner in Moscow, an Englishman named Allan Hopper, shot himself for hitherto unexplained motives.'

1910 Obituary - Institution of Mechanical Engineers
"ALLAN HOPPER was born in Moscow on 27th July 1860, being the son of mr William Hopper, a Scotsman, who founded the Shipock Iron Works in Moscow in 1847. He was educated at home in Russia and at Dr. Bryce's Collegiate School in Edinburgh.

From 1876 to 1880 he served his apprenticeship in the works of Messrs John Musgrave and Sons, Globe Iron Work, Bolton, and in the latter year entered his father's works in Moscow, taking charge of the erecting shop.

In 1882, together with his two elder brothers, he was taken into partnership by his father, when the firm of W Hopper and Co formed.

In 1887 he became general manager of the engineering works in Moscow and the iron works at Orehovo-Zuevo, a post which he held until his death. Both works were considerably extended under his management, and at one time employed over 1,000 hands.

He was a Member of the Committee of the Moscow Bourse, of the Council of the Committee of Millowners and Manufacturers, and one of the patrons of the Kommissaroff Technical School in Moscow.

His death took place suddenly from heart failure in Moscow, on 3rd October 1910, at the age of fifty.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1890.