Soldier and director of British Rail
Soldier and director of British Rail
Born: October 11, 1923 Died: March 18, 2014
Loading article content
HARRY Hyde, who has died aged 90, was a soldier who was wounded and captured as he fought his way inland from Sword beach in Normandy on D-Day 70 years ago. He later became a director of British Rail and arranged all the Queen's visits to Scotland and accompanied her entourage on the Royal Train. He was also responsible for such prestigious state-owned hotels as the Caledonian, North British, Central, Gleneagles and Turnberry.
During the D-Day landings, he was posted "missing, believed killed" but shocked his parents when he turned up alive several months later. He had been treated at a German field hospital then sent to a prisoner of war camp before being liberated by advancing US forces.
He had enlisted as a sapper in the Royal Engineers when he was 17 and trained with Combined Operations forces before being attached to the Lovat Scouts for the Allied invasion of Europe. He was one of the first to be piped across Pegasus Bridge by Bill Millin, Lord Lovat's personal piper.
Assigned as a forward observer with No1 Combined Operations Bombardment Unit, he directed salvos of 15-inch naval gunfire from the battleship and Jutland veteran HMS Warspite. She had left refit in Greenock days earlier with larger guns and was the first to open fire on D-Day, targeting the German battery at Villerville.
The sole survivor of a landmine accident in which he was seriously wounded, he was taken prisoner and treated in a German field hospital. He was one of the first patients to undergo major surgery by epidural. He was then sent to a front-stalag near Rennes, before being liberated by the Americans in August 1944.
Meanwhile, his parents had received a letter saying he was missing, presumed killed. After spending some time recovering from his wounds in the UK, he was posted to the Far East to support landings in Burma and, following the Japanese surrender, was attached to the Ceylon Army Command as embarkation staff officer at the Port of Colombo. He directed the movement of freed Allied POWs and internees from the Dutch East Indies to Ceylon, for rehabilitation in rest camps before shipping home to Holland and the UK.
Harry Edward Hyde was born to Elizabeth Whysker and railwayman Harry Hyde at Carstairs, Lanarkshire. By the age of 14 he was in three jobs; collecting empty bottles for the cash refund, a paper round and a beater for the local pheasant shoot.
In 1947, after demob, he followed his father into the railways and at one point worked at Buchanan House in Glasgow, alongside his brother Adam and niece Alison. He also joined the Army Emergency Reserve as a captain in the Royal Engineers, later receiving the British Empire Medal and Emergency Reserve Decoration.
The railways were undergoing nationalisation and his first role was as establishments and staff officer at the newly-formed British Railways (BR) headquarters, Scottish Region. Through the 1950s and 60s he rose through the positions of traffic assistant, senior assistant to the general manager, secretary to the Scottish Railways Board and chief passenger manager.
Latterly, he arranged all the Queen's visits to Scotland and accompanied the entourage on the Royal Train. He was also responsible for all visits to Scotland of prime ministers and other dignitaries and VIPs. In 1976, he was appointed director of BR's in-house catering arm, Travellers Fare, and moved to England.
A fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Transport and the Hotel Catering and International Management Association, he was finally made executive director of British Transport Hotels. From 1982, he was involved in the Thatcher government's sell-off of prime railway assets such as the Caledonian and North British (now the Balmoral) hotels in Edinburgh, the Central in Glasgow and the Turnberry and Gleneagles hotels.
He fought cancer with stoicism for 15 years, surviving a 12-hour operation and declaring he was not ready to throw the towel in yet. He remained independent, refused personal carers and underwent five major operations, assuring medical staff he had been living on borrowed time since the war. He died in Torquay, having had his garden landscaped, house painted and placed all of his affairs in order.
Hyde wrote his own death notice and checked newspaper obituaries daily "to make sure I'm still alive". Colleagues recall a firm but fair manager who demanded exacting standards but rewarded this with typical generosity, while his loved ones remember a family man with a passion for football (Liverpool FC) and cricket.
He was predeceased by his wife of 52 years, Elaine Macpherson, in 2008. He is survived by their daughter, Carol, and three step grandchildren.