Sunday, November 15, 2015

Missing Great Uncle Rex in the 1939 Register...a puzzle solved.

Where is Uncle Rex on the 1939 Register ?

Marwell Hall, Hampshire Photo Siobhan White ©
I have written a number of blog posts about my most intriguing relative, my great uncle, Rex Morley Hoyes. You can read about Rex Hoyes in the following posts in  Sharn's Genealogy Jottings and FamilyHistory4u  His fascinating life  (1902 -1983) included him being charged with and aquitted of corruption by MI5 during WW2, when he was the managing Director of Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft in England, a secret airstrip constructed at his home Marwell Hall (once owned by Kng Henry VIII which was given by the king to the Seymour family), his involvement in illegal gunrunning to Hyderabad in 1948, along with Australian pilot Sidney Cotton, and so far, unproved suspicions that he was a spy. The UK City and Country Directories, 1600's-1900's give a number of addresses for him in 1939, These are,  29 St James Street SW1 (TN Whitehall 2871), Marwell Hall, Winchester, (TN Owlesbury 6), Formentor, Malorca, Balearic Isles. That he had a very large super yacht registered in his name, could have explained the many addresses but when Findmypast announced the release of the 1939 register , I was eager to see exactly where my great uncle was living on September 29, 1939, when the register of every civilian living in the UK was undertaken. Information about the yacht Warrior can be found here . This site provides a link to my blog post about the Warrior.

The type of Avro Lancastrian
 that  flew guns to Hyderabad  
"Avro Sapphire Lancastrian VM733 Coventry 06.54" by RuthAS - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

This register, recently released by Findmypast was a joint undertaking by The National Archives and DC Thomson Family History. The register was originally used to issue identity cards and ration books and contains vital information such as change of surname, sex, occupation, age and address.

I was surprised when I searched for Rex Morley Hoyes that I couldn't find him. If he was not listed on the 1939 Register, on September 29, I wondered where he would have been so soon after the declaration of WW2. I had hope to find more about him from the register and hoped that he wasn't living at one of the overseas addresses that had been listed in the 1939 UK City and Country Directory ( ).

Results of my search for Rex M Hoyes in the 1939 Register  Image
My first search for Rex Morley Hoyes found no results (see above) and so I amended my search to Rex M Hoyes. I tried both of these searches, first  giving Hampshire, the county in which Marwell Hall is situated and then leaving the place of residence blank, with both searches finding no results.

Next I searched for R M Hoyes in Hampshire, but I found no sign of Rex Hoyes, I found a female by the name of Rose M Hoyes who was born two years earlier than Rex. Rose Hoyes lived in Winchester which is an historic town in the vicinity of Marwell Hall, however, I found no no sign of Rex Hoyes.

Widening my search, I looked for Rex's wife who was Patricia Margaret Hoyes nee Blackadder, formally Lady Waleran. Her affair with Rex Morley Hoyes had become very public in 1934, when news of it hit the newspaper headlines in the London Times. Lord Waleran divorced his much younger wife while Rex divorced his wife Muriel following the news scandal which even gave the address where Rex and pat had held their clandestine meetings. Rex Hoyes and Pat Blackadder married in 1935, having purchase Marwell Hall in 1934 prior to their wedding. Below is the result of my search for Margaret Patricia Hoyes. It was immediately obvious that I had found the correct person becaue her maiden name was shown as Blackadder. The showing of name changes on the 1939 Register is an excellent way to confirm that you have found the person you are looking for.

Margaret P Blackadder (Hoyes) in the 1939 Register. Image:
To the right of each name on the results page, there are two icons to click. The first takes you to a list of the people who lived in the same household as the person you have searched for. Below is the list of people in the Hoyes household which I found . And to my surprise, there, beneath Margaret P Blacckadder/Hoyes was Rose M Hoyes.

The Hoyes household, Winchester Image

Rose M Hoyes , a female, was born 30 March 1900 and her occupation is transcribed as Managing Director of Ca? Owner Aircaft Limited. This caught my attention immediately, since my great uncle Rex was born on the same day March 30, but in 1902, and in 1939, he was Managing Director of Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Limited, based at Southampton Airport, Eastleigh, in England.

Rex Morley Hoyes, 4th from right with Culiffe-Owen personalities.
The only way to see the original image from the 1939 register is to pay to view and although I by now was certain that Rose M Hoyes was in fact, Rex M Hoyes mistranscribed, assumption can so easily lead one down the wrong path. I needed to see the original image to obtain evidence that Rose M Hoyes was really Rex M Hoyes. After all, the household listed Rose as a female and perhaps there was a Rose Hoyes whom I had not yet discovered in my family history research.

Paying to view the original image of the Hoyes household on the 1939 Register image paid off for me, because Rose turned out to bevery much my great uncle Rex. Original writing is often hard to read but I am able to read the name Rex, Perhaps becaue I a expecting it to be Rex, it is easier for me to read. I can also see, however, how the letters 'ex' looked like 'ose' and how easily Rex became Rose. But on the register my great uncle is clearly stated to be a male not a female. The mistake here was that whoever transcribed this record, assumed that the 'M' for male was incorrect and that 'ROSE was correct rather than searching for a male name that loked like Rose. An excellent  lesson for myself also when transcribing. Rex's occupation is Managing Director of Cunliffe Owen Aircraft Ltd, but for someone not looking for that name they can be forgiven for not being able to read it correctly. The address given is Marwell Hall, Owlesbury.

Rex Hoyes was not missing on the day of the 1939 UK Register at all.  But for for the original image I could not have proved this and thumbs up to Findmypast for providing this extra pay by view service. I am again reminded of the importance of finding original documents and not relying upon transcription. Volunteers do an exccellent job of transcribing often very difficult handwriting, but when you are searching for a particular name it is often easier to recognise it yourself.

1939 Register. Rex M Hoyes. Image

Of great interest in the Hoyes household in 1939, is the household staff listed on this register. Rex and Margaret Hoyes had a Butler, chauffer, head housemaid and a cook in the household on September 29, 1939. There are possibly three more household members, however, the three names below those that are listed are not yet available becaue they were born within the 100 year privacy closure period. Since they are not family members, I will not bother to apply to have the closed files opened. I will, though,  be looking into the lives of the Marwell Hall staff in the near future. Often the people who knew our ancestors can provide clues about their lives, so it is well worth investigating them.

It has come to my attention from a number of private sources, that Rex was possibly a spy. I have as yet found no evidence to support this theory, and I am pleased that I found him at home at his Marwell Hall residence on the night of the 1939 register. As Managing Director of Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Ltd, with government aircraft contracts, that Rex himself secured for the company, he travelled to America on official business in 1941. Had I discovered him anywhere but in England on September 29, 1939, so soon after Britain and France had declared war  (September 3), my suspicions about his wartime activities might have been fueled. So for now, Rex is safely patriotic... until I find otherwise. Saved by the 1939 register!