The Hoyland Brothers and the Royal Flying Corps

Leonard Barlow Hoyland and his brother Henry get a place on this website because Leonard is buried in the graveyard and his story is unusual. His brother’s story is included as a contrast.

There is also a moral for historians.


Leonard Hoyland. Unknown date

Leonard Hoyland (Leo) was born in 1897 to George Henry and Rosa Hoyland who lived on Infirmary Road. He was the youngest of six children born to the family, although his two oldest siblings had died before 1888.  George Hoyland was a hairdresser and worked from the family home. By 1911 the family had moved to 233 Crookesmoor Road and George was reported to be a hairdresser and employer in the census, with all four of the children living at home.

By 1911 Leo Hoyland was a Junior Clerk; by 1915 he was a law student

Henry George (Harry) who was Leo’s elder brother by 2 years, was an artist. He clearly showed artistic ability from an early age, winning prizes in all the drawing categories at the Children’s Flower Show of 1908. The following year he entered the Sheffield School of Art on an Exhibition. Once at the Art school, he was awarded scholarships each year between 1911 and 1913 and in 1914 received a book prize in a national exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Another pupil at the school was Stanley Royle who became a well-known landscape artist.

At just on six feet, both Harry and Leonard were tall for the time.

At the start of the war and with income from three sons as well as their father, the family was able to live on Western Bank.

War Service


Harry enlisted in January 1916 but only served 8 days before he was discharged. The reason is not known – the service record is ‘Not being likely to become an efficient soldier.’ 18 months later, perhaps encouraged by tales from his younger brother, Harry enlisted again this time hoping to join the Royal Flying Corps. But this was not to be. He was assessed as being ‘unfit as FO in any capacity’ and transferred to the 10th Battalion of the London Rifle Brigade.

Harry was in France for about two months early in 1918 with the rifle brigade before being sent back to the UK. He was discharged as being ‘no longer physically fit for war service’ in October 1918.


Leonard Hoyland

Age 19 and standing six feet tall, Leo enlisted in September 1915 at Farnborough into the Royal Flying Corps. (The RFC existed from 1912-1918 before merging into the newly formed Royal Air Force). Within a month he was in France within a year he had gained his sergeant’s stripes and was a Qualified Balloon Observer. By October 1917 he gained a commission as a temporary second lieutenant in No. 41 Kite Balloon Section which was stationed at Heudecourt.

In January 1918 Leonard Hoyland was wounded in France.

A Typical Kite Balloon

He and another man had ascended in a balloon to observe the German positions. They were seen by German pilots who attacked the balloon from a high altitude. However, British gunners spotted the Germans and fired at them as they swooped down on the balloon. Within minutes the gas bag of the balloon was on fire and the crew leapt from the wicker basket that hung underneath it.  Hoyland and his crew member parachuted to safety but Hoyland was severely wounded.

He spent over six months in hospital being treated for his injuries before being declared fit for ground duties September 1918.

After the war

Leonard, still serving, although not fully recovered, insisted on taking part in the victory parade in November 1918 when he contracted pneumonia or perhaps influenza (a victory parade was going to cause the infection to spread) and later died in Purfleet Military Hospital in England on 25th November 1918.

The Grave in Fulwood Churhyard

He is commemorated on the family grave Fulwood. the inscription reads:

“To the eternal memory of Leo Leonard Barlow Hoyland Lieut. RAF. The youngest and dearly loved son of G. H. and R. Hoyland. His death which took place November 25th 1918 was directly responsible to wounds which he received from the enemy in France on January 13th 1918 whilst parachuting from a burning balloon. Age 21 years and 9 months. He gave his heart to his home and his life to his country, his soul to God.”

His name also appears on the World War One memorial plaque at St Mark’s Church, Broomhill.

The Artist

Having been deischarged from the army, Harry resumed his training to be an artist. At some point he made a decision to use his birth name of Henry, rather than the more familial Harry. Henry went on to study art in London and Paris. He taught at the Sheffield School of Art from 1921-29 and for at least part of this time lived on Oakbrook Road with his mother. In 1928, Henry married Sarah M. Mitchell-Withers and their daughter, Rosemary, was born in 1929 when the family was living on Psalter Lane and Henry had a studio on Surrey Street. He moved to London with his family to continue his career as a painter in 1930. At the outbreak of the second world war the family was living in Camberwell although the daughters, Karen had been born in 1936, were not recorded there, perhaps because they had been evacuated. Henry described himself as a Portrait and Landscape artist. He died in London in 1947.

The Moral?

Never take an grave inscription at face value – this one does not reflect what happened to Leonard.


Leonard & the balloon:

Henry Hoyland, Artist:

Art UK

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