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27 April 1925, Dr Evelyn Oliver Ashe dies in Kimberley.
27 April 1935, Governor-General’s son Lord Hyde accidentally shot dead at Rooipoort.


Lord Hyde, while shooting on the De Beers Estate near Kimberley, yesterday, tripped over his rifle which was accidentally discharged and inflicted a fatal wound.

So read the terse communique issued from Government House on 28 April 1935 concerning the tragedy on Rooipoort on Saturday 27 April 1935.

George Herbert Arthur Edward Hyde Villiers, (Lord Hyde) was the elder son and heir of the 6th Earl of Clarendon who was Governor-General of the Union of South Africa from 1931 to 1937. He was born on May the 6th 1906 and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford. Lord Hyde served with the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues). He was a keen cricketer and had an enthusiasm for the outdoors. While in South Africa he was a member of the Western Province Wednesday XI. In April 1932 he married the Hon. Marion Glyn elder daughter of Lord and Lady Wolverton. The wedding, which took place in Westminster Abbey on 19 April 1932, was one of the grandest social events of the year. It was graced by the presence of King George V and Queen Mary. Lord Hyde was the King’s godson and His Majesty gave him and his bride handsome wedding gifts. In 1933 he was appointed Comptroller of the Royal Household and was a personal friend of the King. On 2 February the same year his son and heir, George Frederick Laurence Hyde Villiers, was born.

In April 1935 the Earl and Countess of Clarendon with Lord Hyde and their younger son the Hon. Nicholas Villiers were making their second official visit to Kimberley. The Governor–General opened the Kimberley and Northern Districts Agricultural Society’s Show. On the Saturday following this, 27 April, the Earl of Clarendon and his sons went hunting at De Beers shooting box Rooipoort some 36 miles (57,6 km) out of Kimberley.

The hunting party consisted of the Earl of Clarendon, Lord Hyde, the Honourable Nicolas Villiers, Sir John Carew-Pole, Captain Schreiber, Mr Julian Martin Smith, Lt-Colonel T Ormiston, and Dr AGW Compton.

Lord Hyde was paired with Dr AGW Compton (a director of De Beers). The party sighted a springbok and Lord Hyde went off in pursuit. Shortly after this Dr Compton and Koos Mathee, the driver of the buckboard vehicle, heard a shot. When they came upon Lord Hyde, expecting to find he had brought down an animal, they were instead horrified to see him lying prostrate and bleeding.

The accident happened about 6 miles (9,6 km) from the box itself and it was immediately apparent that Lord Hyde was critically injured. The time was about 10 am. A doctor and ambulance from Kimberley were summoned. Doctors Compton and J.O.B. Hodnett decided that Lord Hyde should be moved to the box and from there taken to Kimberley Hospital. Shortly after mid-day he was taken to the box but by then Lord Hyde’s condition had deteriorated to such an extent that it was felt he should not be moved. He died at about 4.30 pm. The coffin draped with the Union Jack was taken to Kimberley Station at 9.20 pm where it was placed in a special van adjoining the White Train. A short service was conducted by the Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman before the train began its journey to Cape Town.

The verdict of the inquest was given by the Chief Magistrate of Kimberley Mr F.C.W. Coller. ‘Death due to haemorrhage and shock the result of gunshot wounds accidentally sustained’. It appears that the accident happened when Lord Hyde placed the butt of his rifle on the ground to enable him to use his field glasses. The shock of the contact with the ground must have caused the gun to go off. This explanation is supported by what Lord Hyde muttered before losing consciousness and by the testimony of those present at the scene of the accident.

Telegrams of sympathy were received from the King and Queen, the South African Prime Minister General Hertzog, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, the Viceroy of India and many others. It is difficult nowadays to recreate in one’s mind the position which the Governor–General held in the Union of South Africa. He was the monarch’s representative and as such his position was, though largely ceremonial, above that of the Prime Minister. Thus the death of his eldest son was an event of national importance. This was reflected by the fact that a joint address of condolence was presented to the Earl and Countess of Clarendon by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly. The Dean of Johannesburg made a broadcast on the wireless on April 29th in which he said ‘Lord Hyde brought to South Africa the double contribution of capacity for friendship and a fine conception of duty for the enrichment of the common wealth)’.

On the first of May Memorial Services were held in St Cyprian’s Cathedral in Kimberley and at Sydney–on-Vaal. The former was attended by the acting Mayor Councillor J.C. Varrie, Mr H.P. Rudd, Reverend W. Pescod and Councillor J.W. Orr among others. The sermon was given by Reverend H.C. Hobson who said of Lord Hyde that ‘the great mark of his life was his religion and his sincerity. He was a good young man’. On the same day the funeral service was held in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town and the Mayor of Kimberley W.H. Gasson represented the City at this event. A Memorial Service was held in London at the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace on the 3rd of May.

It was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The death of Lord Hyde at such a young age was tragic and the manner of it even more so. Lady Hyde was of course devastated and her two-year-old son left without a father. Somewhat of a damper was cast over South Africa’s preparations for the Silver Jubilee celebrations of King George V although the Governor-General insisted that most of them not be cancelled. It is sad to think that, on the 6th of May 1935 when the splendid functions took place in England and throughout the Empire, a young man filled with so much bright promise would not be among those taking part. And that on the very same day Lord Hyde should have been celebrating his 29th birthday.

(Author Robert Hart of the McGregor Museum – Reproduced with permission from the April 2006 issue of Now and Then, newsletter of the Historical Society of Kimberley and the Northern Cape).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

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