1st County of London Yeomanry attached 66 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Sidney Stewart Hume was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 1 September 1886 but his parents, Alexander Hume and Marie Henriette Adelaide Hume, brought him back to the UK to be baptised. This took place on 5 February 1887. At some point he travelled back to Argentina and in his adult years, lived there, as a farmer, until he arrived in Liverpool on 9 March 1915, on the RMS Darro from Rio de Janeiro, to enlist in the army.
It’s not clear when Hume was commissioned, but he was a Second Lieutenant with the 1st County of London Yeomanry by the time he joined the Battalion in Gallipoli on 3 November 1915. He was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps as an Observer on 15 August 1916 and in November was promoted to Lieutenant whilst he was with them. This was made substantive with a seniority of 1 June 1916. On 23 March 1917 received his Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate, and became a pilot.
Hume was posted to 66 Squadron which flew Sopwith Pups. On 27 May 1917 he was shot down and reported missing, and on 13 June it was confirmed that he had been taken Prisoner of War. Red Cross records show that he was at Karlsruhe and Holzminden and accounts also mention Freiburg (where he made a number of escape attempts). Perhaps because of his escape attempts, he was badly treated by his captors. His cousin Roland, a RFC pilot who had also been shot down, was with him at Holzminden and provided support to him but by this time his mental health was giving cause for concern, and British officers pushed for his repatriation. Records also show that he was interned at a “nerve clinic” in Breslau. This may have been attached to the prison camp at Schweidnitz as Red Cross records refer to a communique from that camp on 17 August 1918 stating that Hume had been sent to Aachen to be repatriated.
Sidney Hume returned to the UK via Boston, Lincolnshire and was admitted to Netley Military Hospital, Southampton on 25 August 1918. This hospital had been built on the orders of Queen Victoria following the Crimean War. The aim was to train army doctors and nurses and to treat military patients. The building was a quarter of a mile long with 138 wards and approximately 1,000 beds. Even so, during the First World War a large Red Cross hutted hospital was built at the rear of the site to accommodate another 2,500 beds. It also housed the first purpose-built military asylum know as D Block. Around 50% of all men suffering from shellshock were treated at Netley.
Hume was observed as suffering from delusions (that he had been hypnotised in Germany), hallucinations and he had also been violent. He was subsequently sent to Latchmere House in Surrey. Latchmere House was a Victorian mansion taken over in 1915 as a Special Hospital for officers. Issued orders made it very clear that insane officers should be sent to Latchmere whereas psychoneurotic but not insane officers were sent to Palace Green.
Hume’s condition appeared to improve considerably after admission into Latchmere, so much so that he was allowed home visits. However, on one occasion after a home visit his condition had worsened – he was excited and claimed that his food had been poisoned, and that the Medical Officer had tried to hypnotise him. As a result, he was transferred to the “Annexe” within Latchmere where he could be observed more closely.
Around 10.15 pm on 30 November 1918, Hume went to the lavatory and when he came out called for the orderly. When Private Robert Aldridge, RAMC approached him, Hume produced a revolver and ordered him to put his “hands up”. Aldridge refused at which point Hume shot him in the face. He died immediately leaving a widow and two children. Hume took the keys off Robert and escaped from the hospital. Hume later said “I pointed the revolver at the orderly and told him to put his arms up. He was braver than I thought he was, and refused. I then fired. He fell to the ground, and I walked out”. Hume was arrested in Hammersmith, London. On his arrest he was noted as saying “I am not mad. I did it for reasons so important that I have put myself in this position. I did it for the reason that my statement could not be suppressed. It was for the benefit of England”
Hume was tried for murder at the Surrey Assizes at Guildford and was found insane, and ordered to be detained during his Majesty’s pleasure. Hume’s Council said that he became insane entirely owing to his treatment by the Germans as a prisoner of war. A RAMC mental health expert, Captain Baird, who gave testimony however, said it was not possible to say whether this was the case as he could have been insane for two years or ten.
A RAMC report on the case states that on his last trip home, he asked his mother for his revolver. According to his brother-in-law, Major Cecil Edward Sykes-Wright, Royal Marine Light Infantry (who worked in the Intelligence Section at the Admiralty during the war), Hume’s mother told him where it was and that he went upstairs and brought it back with him to Latchmere. He was accompanied by his sister who made no mention of the fact. The RAMC report suggests that there was no way that Hume could have hidden the weapon given the frequent searches and close observation that went on. The report continued:
“His mother is described as a foolish woman, unable to refuse him (Hume) anything and inclined to disbelieve in his being mentally affected and to sympathise with his complaints as to his treatment”.
It was therefore thought that his mother brought the gun to him on one of her visits.
Hume was sent to Broadmoor prison and was eventually released in 1968. He subsequently spent time in the Priory, at Roehampton where he died (on 20 September 1984) of bronchopneumonia, senile dementia and chronic schizophrenia.
The following family information has been ascertained :-
- Father – Alexander Hume.
- Mother – Marie Henriette Adelaide Hume.
- Sister – Agnes Lillian Sykes Hume or Wright.
- Brother-in-Law – Cecil Edward Sykes Wright, born 4 May 1881 in Hampstead, London, died 1975 in Kensington.
- Cousin – Roland Cunningham Hume, born 26 November 1898 in Argentina.
Records show that Sidney lived at the following addresses :-
- 1915 – 31 Abbey Road, St Johns Wood, London.
- 1984 – Priory Hospital, Roehampton.
Sidney Stewart Hume is not remembered on any memorials as he did not die in the war.
Links to Additional Information
- Lives of the First World War – Sidney Stewart Hume.
- WW1 Lives – Private Robert Aldridge who was murdered by Hume.
- Ancestry.Co.UK: England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975.
- Ancestry.Co.UK: UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960.
- Page 10067 | Supplement 29790, 17 October 1916 | London Gazette | The Gazette
- Page 12099 | Supplement 29858, 8 December 1916 | London Gazette | The Gazette
- Ancestry.Co.UK: Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificates.
- Page 3902 | Supplement 30034, 24 April 1917 | London Gazette | The Gazette
- Page 6858 | Supplement 30173, 6 July 1917 | London Gazette | The Gazette
- Hume, S.S. – RAF Museum Storyvault
- Sidney Stewart Hume and the Ham Common murder | Military History Forum (militarian.com)
- Prisoners of the First World War | International Committee of the Red Cross
- Find My Past: British Army Service Records 1914-1920: Private Robert Aldridge.
- Find My Past: Blyth News 9 December 1918.
- The Guardian: Palace of Pain 21 August 2014.
- England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) 1858-1995.
- Trevor Torkington