Albert Hilton was born in June 1868 in Ashton under Lyne to James and Mary Hilton (née Buckley). James Hilton owned, and was the publican of, the Collier’s Arms Inn. Albert was the youngest of nine children but not all of his brothers and sisters survived into adulthood; his older brother, and namesake, Albert dying after just 3 weeks’ life in 1864, another brother Joshua dying as an infant in 1853.
In 1871 Albert was living with his parents, four older brothers, older sister Elizabeth and his adopted sister Alice Brierly, at the Colliers Arms Inn, Ashton. His three oldest brothers working as Felt Hatters. His oldest brother, George Hilton, owned a small hat manufacturing business and was living with his wife, infant son and a domestic servant on King Street in Ashton.
Ten years later, in 1881, George’s hat manufacturing business had grown but his wife had died and so he and his four children had moved back to live with the family. By this time, James Hilton had retired and moved to King Street and so Albert lived with his parents, his brother George and his young family and two of Albert’s older brothers, and his sister Elizabeth.
Albert’s father died in 1882, when Albert was 14, and his mother died 7 years later just as Albert was embarking on his medical studies. Consequently, Albert moved to live with his brother George’s family, George having remarried.
Albert matriculated in June 1889 at the Central Board School, Manchester and went on to study Preliminary Science, (excluding Biology), at Owens College, Manchester in July 1890 followed by Biology in January 1891. With this foundation, he passed his Medicine and Therapeutics, Pathology and Midwifery examinations in March 1896 followed by his Surgical Anatomy and Operative Manipulation, Instruments, Bandaging and Appliances, Surgery and Surgical Pathology examinations in April. Upon passing all of his examinations he was granted the Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (L.S.A.), entitling him to practice Medicine, Surgery and Midwifery and enabling him to compete for Medical Appointments in the Army, Navy, and India Services, also for Poor Law Appointments. Now a qualified and licensed medical practitioner, in 1897 he setup his medical practice in Hurst, Ashton under Lyne.
He was commissioned into the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, the Manchester Regiment, as Surgeon-Lieutenant on August 23, 1899 and promoted to Surgeon-Captain on November 8, 1902. He also became a Freemason on February 15, 1900 joining the Lodge of Fidelity, Ashton under Lyne, the same lodge that Ned Stringer would later join in 1906.
By 1905 Dr. Hilton, LSA had been appointed Surgeon for the Lancashire County Constabulary & St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and in such capacity was called to crime scenes, performed autopsies and presented evidence at inquests. He was also a member of the British Medical Association and at one point held the position of President of the Ashton under Lyne Division.
At the Hurst District Council meeting of Thursday September 19, 1907 Dr. Albert Hilton was appointed Medical Officer of Health temporarily for a period of six months at a salary of £15, at a rate of £30 per annum, after the death of Dr. Cooke, the previous appointee. Dr. Hilton was later appointed to a permanent position holding it until 1912 and authoring the annual “Reports on Sanitary Condition of USD of Hurst”, during this period.
In 1907 an act of parliament changed the Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (L.S.A.) to Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery of the Society of Apothecaries (L.M.S.S.A.). The 1914 Medical Register shows Albert Hilton listed as “L.S.A. Lond., 1896; L.M.S.S.A. Lond., 1908” although the Society of Apothecaries holds no records of him passing any such examinations in 1908.
Also in 1908, the 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force was formed and Captain-Surgeon Albert Hilton retained his rank and precedence along with the other officers and men of the battalion. On July 12, 1911 he was promoted to Surgeon-Major and remained at this rank.
In 1912 he was awarded the Diploma in Public Health (DPH) from Manchester University while working at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and the same year he became a Fellow of the Society of Medical Officers of Health.
At the outbreak of war, he was mobilised with the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment and sailed with the battalion to Egypt serving with them there throughout their training and preparations for action. While the battalion were stationed under canvas at Heliopolis, Major Hilton became ill and was admitted to the Citadel Hospital in Cairo.
Writing to his sister on March 4, 1915 2/Lt. Ned Stringer said:
Poor Albert Hilton, as you know, died yesterday and we have buried him in the English cemetery at Old Cairo today. He has not shown any sign of improvement since we left England but has had many days of sickness from time to time. Last Sunday he went to the Canal battlefield, returned to Camp about midnight & on Monday he was taken with what was thought to be enteric fever. He was removed to hospital on Wednesday and he died Thursday from meningitis, so that his old complaint claimed him at last. I shall miss him much as he & I have been very pally since we came here & such men cannot be replaced.
Cpl. Thomas Valentine, of the battalion’s Band, noted in his journal on March 5th:
We are going on a very painful duty today, that is to play the Death March for our Doctor, Major Hilton, who died at the Citadel Hospital after a very short illness. And we buried him in the soldier’s cemetery, Cairo.
The British Medical Journal of May 8, 1915 carried a short tribute:
Major, Albert Hilton, R.A.M.C. (T.F.), died on service in Egypt on March 4th, as recorded in the casualties in the April Army List. He was educated at Owens College and at the Royal Infirmary, Manchester, and took the diploma of L.S.A. in 1896 and the D.P.H. of Manchester in 1912.
He practiced at Hurst, Ashton-under-Lyne, and was medical officer of Hurst Union District and surgeon to the Lancashire County Constabulary. He had served as President of the Ashton-under-Lyne Division of the British Medical Association. He was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Health, and a member of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. He entered the auxiliary forces as medical officer on August 23rd, 1899, attained the rank of Major on July 12th, 1911, and was Medical Officer of the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
The Stalybridge Reporter carried a short article reporting his death on March 6, 1915:
Territorial Officer’s Death in Cairo
HURST MEDICAL OFFICER
Just as we go to press, we regret to have to announce the death of Dr. A. Hilton, surgeon-major in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Ashton Territorials, and medical officer of health for Hurst.
Yesterday (Friday) a cablegram was received containing the announcement that death took place on Thursday at Cairo.
Major Hilton, who was 47 years of age, left with the Ashton battalion for Egypt in September last. For a year or two previously his health had not been of the best, but from reports received the change of climate appeared to have had very beneficial results. Details of the illness which brought about his death are lacking
For many years he was engaged as a medical practitioner in Hurst, and he occupied the position of medical officer of health for the Hurst Urban District Council, and also for the Ashton, Stalybridge and District Joint Smallpox Hospital Board. A Conservative in politics, he was formerly one of the representatives of the East and West Wards in the Hurst District Council, where he served the community to the best of his ability, and proved himself to be a very popular representative.
When the war broke out, he played an important part, as an officer of the Army Medical Corps, in the medical inspection of the recruits at the Barracks, and large numbers of men passed through his hands. A man of many parts, he was extremely popular among the officers and men of the battalion. He had a fund of humour, and at many of the social gatherings he has enlivened the proceedings and caused much mirth by his humerous sketches and pianoforte accompaniments by himself. He was remarkably well read and informed on almost any variety of subject, and took a humerous pleasure in starting a conversation on some abstruse and out-of-the-way subject on which he shed an amazing amount of information. He was a member of the Warrington and Union Clubs, Ashton, the flags of which were hoisted half-mast as a mark of respect.
He was gazetted surgeon-lieutenant of the 3rd V. B. Manchester Regiment on August 23rd, 1899; surgeon-captain on November 24th, 1902; and major of the Royal Army medical Corps in July 12th, 1911.
- The Warrington Club, established in 1874, occupied a fine building in the Early English style near Mossley road, comprising billiard, conversation, whist, dining and directors’ rooms, together with a bowling green and croquet and tennis lawns and a pavilion in which entertainments were held. In 1904 there were around 200 members.
- The Union Club, in Old street, established in 1868, was exclusively confined to the professional and military gentlemen of the town and the officers at the barracks. In 1904 there were around 60 members.
Major Albert Hilton, LSA, DPH died on March 4, 1915 at the Citadel Hospital, Cairo. He was 47 years old. He is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, about 4km south of Kasr-El-Nil barracks where the battalion were first stationed in Egypt, and commemorated on the University of Manchester War Memorial, Main Quadrangle.
Remarkably, for a military officer on active service overseas in 1915, he died intestate and his sister Elizabeth was appointed administratrix.
Many thanks to The Society of Apothecaries for their patience and their assistance in uncovering the details of the medical qualifications of Surgeon-Major Albert Hilton.