The life of Edward Hopson looks likely to remain a mystery, and what can be pieced together is done from a few fragmented documents. His gravestone sits in the Faversham Borough Cemetery in Kent.
A local newspaper, contemporary to his passing in January 1915, acts at the starting point:
Edward Hopson, a Maidstone [Kent] man, belonging to the National Reserve Guard doing duty at the Explosives Works at Faversham, died suddenly while proceeding on duty on Tuesday night.
Evidence of identification was given by Joseph Cornelius, a Lance Corporal in the Guard, who stated that so far as was known, the deceased’s only relative was a half-brother. The deceased gave his age as 49 when he enlisted, but witness believed his correct age was 61. He was apparently in good health when passed for duty on Tuesday at the works of the Explosives Loading Company at Uplees.
Charles John Link, engaged on patrol duty at the works, stated that about 10:30 on Tuesday night he was accompanying deceased to the point where he was to do guard duty. On the way deceased complained that he could not see, and shortly afterwards, as they came to a style, he exclaimed “Oh! dear,” and then, dropping his rifle, he fell into the witness’s arms and expired.South Eastern Gazette: Tuesday 26th January 1915
The cause of death was given to be heart disease, and, at the inquest, a verdict of “Death from Natural Causes” was given.
The report suggests that Edward was born either in around 1866 or 1854. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission give his parents as Jack and Annie Hopson, but there are no surviving census records from the 1800s that would corroborate this.
The 1911 census records an Edward Hopson, aged 57 and from Maidstone, Kent, residing in the Maidstone Union Workhouse. He is listed as a former farm labourer, and his marital stated us given as widowed.
If this is the Edward Hopson commemorated in Faversham Cemetery, it seems likely that he used the outbreak of war – and the opportunity to enlist – as his escape route from the workhouse.
He joined The Buffs (The East Kent Regiment), and was assigned, as a Private, to the 4th Battalion. This particular troop was dispatched to India in October 1914, and it seems likely that Private Hopson was reassigned to the National Reserves Guard, and posted to Faversham.
This is all conjecture, of course, but, either way, Private Hopson died of a heart attack on the night of the 19th January 1915, aged approximately 61 years old.