Monday 27 August 2018

Brian Hatton (1887 – 1916) British soldier artist

Brian Hatton was born in Broomy Hill, Herefordshire on 12th August 1887.  His parents were Alfred Hatton, b. 1857, a boot and shoe manufacturer, and his wife, Amelia Roberta Hatton, nee Keay, b.1865. Brian had the following siblings - Ailsa Marr, b. 1894 and Marjorie, b. 1896.

Brian demonstrated a talent for drawing and painting at a young age.  When he was eleven years old, he was awarded the ‘Gold Star’ by the Royal Drawing Society. After spending a year at Oxford University, Brian travelled in Europe and then went to study at Hospitalfields Art School in Arbroath, Scotland. In 1908 Brian went to live in London and attended an art school in South Kensington. He also spent time at the National Gallery copying paintings.  During 1908, Brian was invited to join an archaeological expedition to Egypt, which was led by the English Egyptologist Professor William Flinders Petrie.

WW1 poet Gerald Siordet and Brian Hatton met when they were studying at Oxford University – Siordet at Balliol Colleg and Hatton at Trinity College.  They set up a studio together in London in 1912 - The Bronze Door studio in South Kensington.  Hatton received many commissions and soon he was so busy he found it difficult to spare time to return to Hereford and visit his father and siblings.  In 1913 he received a royal commission from Windsor Castle to make drawings of Princess Alice’s children, Prince Rupert and Princess May.   Princess Alice was the longest surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria.  The success of that particular commission led to many more commissions from wealthy people

When war broke out, Brian enlisted in September 1914 as a Tooper with the 1/1 Worcestershire Yeomanry, a cavalry regiment.  Brian married Lydia May Bidmead, known as Biddy, by special licence before leaving for France with his Regiment.  Their daughter, Mary Amelia, was born on 21st September 1915.  Brian obtained leave to visit his wife and daughter before being posted to Egypt.

Brian Hatton was killed on 23rd April 1916 during the Battle of Katia, which took place about 25 miles east of the Suez Canal. Fifty Royal Engineers, together with a detachment of The Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars, which was sent to guard them, were sinking a well when they were attacked by more than two thousand Turkish infantry troops.  At the time of his death, Brian was a Second Lieutenant.

The art critic, Walter Shaw Sparrow described Brian Hatton as ‘possessing the rarest of all things - true genius’, and the watercolour painter Adrian Bury described him as ‘a genius unique in the history of British art’.

Brian Hatton's work has been shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum. Examples of his work are to be found in the Brian Hatton Gallery at Churchill Gardens, Hereford.

Gerald Siordet was in France when he heard the news of his friend’s death. He wrote to his cousin Val Burkhardt to ask for information, since Burkhardt was then serving in Egypt.  Captain Burkhardt replied on 27th September 1916 stating that he 'was having a better memorial made than the few sticks and the bottom of a biscuit tin bearing an illegible inscription that he found'.  A footnote to that letter stated that, after the war, those Worcester Yeomen were reburied in Kantara War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt. Brian’s Grave Reference in that Cemetery is A. 9.

Gerald Caldwell Siordet, artist, poet and critic who taught Aldous Huxley, joined the Rifle Brigade was wounded and awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry during The Somme Offensive in 1916, when he took over command when his Commanding Officer was killed. Once recovered, Gerald was posted to Mesopamia and was killed on 9th February 1917, leading an attack on a Turkish position. He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.

Photo:  Brian in his studio photographer unknown
Sketch:  "Civilisation" by Brian Hatton

Find my Past and Free BMD and
Celia Davies,  “Brian Hatton, A Biography of the Artist (1887-1916)”, (Terence Dalton, Lavenham 1978)

An excellent book about Egypt during WW1 “Tracing your Great War Ancestors: The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns – A Guide for family historians” by Stuart Hadaway, Pen & Sword Family History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2017.