K.C.B. London Gazette 3.6.1922.
Sir William Wilson Hoy, K.C.B., was a legendary South African who affected the outcome of the German South-West African Campaign in 1914-15 and the Rand Revolt in 1922 and was also the first General Manager of the unified South African Railways. His influence in South Africa can be gauged by his presence at the Paris Peace Conference with General Smuts and Botha in 1919 and his attendance at the Imperial Conferences in London in the 1920s with the Prime Minister of South Africa, including that of 1926 when South Africa was granted Dominion Status.
His entry in the Dictionary of South African Biography presents an admirable portrait but fails to truly reveal his impact on a country of some 790,246 square miles which required a railway system of some 13,651 miles with 18,558 track miles. When Hoy became the first General Manager of the South African Railways in 1910, formed from the Natal Government Railways, Cape Government Railways and Central South African Railways (Imperial Military Railways during the Boer War), the total capital of the organisation was 87,263,366.
When Hoy became the Controller of the Imperial Military Railways in June 1900, following the occupation of the Free State and Transvaal, he had to create a workable system from what remained of the Z.S.A.R. Over such a vast area and in the wake of a campaign which had wreaked havoc on marching horse and marching man, a viable railway network was the only option for successful British occupation and Hoy responded to the challenge (at the end of the War he was recommended to Lord Kitchener for an award by Lieutenant-Colonel Girouard, Director of Railways). Likewise, the success of the German South-West African Campaign in 1914 depended on the ability of the Union troops to deploy rapidly into the field and for lines of communication to be reliable. Hoy was one of the seven men present at the meeting called by Smuts in August 1914 to plan the invastion of South-West Africa and the speed with which the South Africans advanced during the Campaign and rebuilt the damaged railways in the desert took the Germans completely by surprise. For these services Hoy was knighted and was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath.
His promotion to K.C.B. in 1922 was the last such distinction to a South African and represents an award for a grave episode in South African history, the 1922 civil strike commonly known as the Rand Revolt. It was a strike which threatened to engulf Johannesburg in anarchy and was put down with severity by the government. Measures included parts of Johannesburg being shelled by the Transvaal Horse Artillery and bombed by the South African Air Force. Without trains being made available to the government for the transportation of troops from Durban, what close amounted to a fully armed uprising could not have been contained. General Hertzog, who gained power from Smuts in 1924, subsequently banned South Africans from receiving knighthoods, a ban that exists on the Statute Books to this day:
'Hoy, Sir William Wilson (Portmoak, Kinrosshire, Scot., 11.3.68 - Cape Town 11.2.30), general manager of Railways, was the son of Robert Hoy, a Scottish farmer. He had only an elementary schooling and for the rest was self-educated. His life-long connection with the railways began at the age of twelve, when as a junior clerk he entered the service of the North British Railway Company in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In 1889 he joined the Cape Railways, in December 1890 he attended the opening of the Cape-Free State line at Bloemfontein, was in 1892 appointed chief clerk to the transport manager at Kroonstad, and in June that year was transferred to Vereeniging. By March 1895 he was acting chief clerk to the general manager (Transport Section) of the Cape Railways and consequently returned to Cape Town. A few months later he was made general manager of this branch and thus became intimately involved in the tariff war between the Cape and Natal Railways and N.Z.A.S.M., a struggle which led to the temporary closing of the drifts in the Vaal River (1895). After being appointed representative of the Cape Railway in Johannesburg in 1896, Hoy acted as assistant-manager of Transport in Bulawayo and Kimberley from 1897 to 1898, going to Port Elizabeth in 1898 to take up the post of assistant-manager. From June 1900 to June 1902 he supervised the British Military railway network in the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republic, with headquarters at Bloemfontein. Although his duties entailed much travelling, he nethertheless took an interest in municipal affairs and served on the Johannesburg City Council (1901-2).
When the railways were transferred to the civil administration Hoy acted as chief traffic manager of the Central South African Railways until 1910, introducing the section system in 1907. He represented the Railways at the international conference in Washington and was promoted assistant general manager in 1909. Hoy was made general manager of the South African Railways and succeeded in welding the various systems into an integrated unit.
In 1914, when with the rank of Colonel and because of the military action against German South-West Africa he was appointed director of Military Railways, he superintended the line between Prieska and Upington, which was completed in eighty-two days. He was granted a knighthood for his services and became a C.B. in 1918. At the time of the peace conference in Paris (1919) Hoy accompanied Genera Louis Botha and J.C. Smuts and received railway materials and three ships as a gift from Britain to the Union government. During this visit to Europe he was made a commander of the Belgian Ordre de la Couronne and became a Knight of Grace, Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Later he was also deputy commissioner of this order in South Africa.
During the post-war economic regression and the strike of 1922 Hoy succeeded in guiding the Railways through the critical years, acted as chairman of the Civil Aeronautical Council from 1921 to 1923, and in 1922 began to steer the first railway electrification project in South Africa (between Glencoe and Pietermaritzburg).
Created a K.C.B. in 1922, Hoy was chairman of the South African section of the Empire Exibition (1924-5) ... he was on 11.3.1928 succeeded as general manager of the South African Railways and Harbours ... Hoy's great contribution to the establishment and development of South African Railways and Harbours is his lasting memorial. Moreover, by improving publicity for the Railways he helped to entrench South Africa's reputation among the leading tourist organisarions of the world and attract increasing numbers of visitors to the country.
Hoy married Gertrude Mildred Price, a daughter of Sir Thomas Price, in 1901. They had no children. He was buried on Hoy's Koppie, a hill at Hermanus.'
A bronze bust of Hoy was placed at the entrance to Johannesburg railway station.