Hume, Sidney Stewart
Sidney Hume was convicted of The Ham Common (near Richmond Surrey) murder in 1919. This is a tragic tale of a man disturbed with mental anguish. Who knows what went on after he was shot down on that fateful day in France on the 27 May 1917 whilst flying Sopwith Pup A7340 and his subsequent incarceration by the Germans in a number of P.O.W. camps including the notorious Camp Kommandant Hauptmann Karl Niemeyer at Holzminden? Like many of his contemporaries he had served with the Army at the front, but in Hume’s case it was not France but at Galliopili. He then elected to join the Royal Flying Corps; this would lead to the fateful day when he killed 38 year old Aldridge. He might have been tried for murder and hanged, but instead he was to spend the rest of his long life in mental institutions.
Sidney Stewart Hume was born in Buenos Aires on 1 September 1885 the third son of Alexander and Marie Henrietto Adelaide neé Mundt of Buenos Aires. The Hume’s had three boys and three girls, Alexander Scott, Albert Edward who died soon after birth, Sidney Stewart, Mary Elizabeth, Agnes Lillian and Violet Theodora. Their father Alexander was a partner in the firm of Railway Engineers Hume Hermanos (Hume Brothers) with his brother Washington, who had joined Alexander in Argentina from Australia. Alexander was one of the founders of the Argentinean Jockey Club which is just outside Buenos Aires and also built the art nouveau style Hume Palace, one of Buenos Aires most famous houses. Alexander sold the property in the 1920’s when owing to the political climate in Argentina his company went into liquidation and he returned to England.
Sidney is known to have been educated at St. Georges College, Quilmes, which is near the capital Buenos Aires between 1900 –1902, although he did not finish the course. There is an entry in the school magazine which notes that “The treatment the former received was of such a nature as to cause mental derangement, on discovery of which, the enemy sent him across to England, where he is now undergoing treatment in a mental hospital.” Following his education, he served as a Corporal in the 1st Line Regt, Horse Grenadiers for seven months and later in the Argentine Presidents Cavalry bodyguard at Couscript.
Sidney was a gifted horseman and marksman with a slingshot and was employed on an estancia in southern Argentina, later moving to Paraguay. Sidney arrived in Liverpool from La Plata, Argentina on 9 March 1915 on board the S S Darro. He joined the 1st County of London Yeomanry (Duke of Cambridge’s Hussars) on 25 March 1915 and served at Mundros during October 1915, where he was admitted to hospital on the 23 November. He was then moved to Giza and was discharged in February 1916. Sidney had transferred to the RFC by June 1916 and joined 14 Squadron as an Observer Officer by August, qualifying as a Flying Officer (Observer) on the 28th. Sidney Hume must have been recommended for pilot training as he underwent his flying training with the Central Flying School E & B Squadron’s gaining his Royal Aero Club certificate on 23 March 1917. Hume entered France on the 16 May 1917 and was first noted with 66 Squadron on the 26 May when Maj Owen Boyd in Scout A6182 and Sidney in A7340 flew a 1hr 40 minute cross country flight, presumably so that Boyd could judge his flying ability and to also familiarize himself with the local terrain. The same day Sydney then had a 45 minute practice flight on his own in Scout B1710, and at 3.50 p.m. he flew his first patrol over the Western front Scout A6173 when along with Leader Capt. J.D. Latta (B1726), 2/Lt G.E.G. Round (A7340), 2/Lt A. Robertson, Lt R.M. Roberts, the patrol returning at 5.50 p.m. The next day he was due to fly the first patrol of the day (in A7340) with patrol leader Capt J.D. Latta (B1726), 2/Lt J. Boumphrey (B1724), 2/Lt A.V. Shirley (A6182), Lt. R.M. Roberts (B1719), 2/Lt A Robertson (B1715) near Croisilles-Hermies when he was shot down. . After the war Sidney informed the RAF that he became separated from the flight whilst he was having a scrap, he was attacked by two German two-seat reconnaissance aeroplanes, his gun jammed and he spun down, then his engine failed and he was trying to forced land when at 150 ft he got in to a spin and crash landed, he was unharmed and got out of the machine and following orders he tried to set fire to it, but was captured 4 kilometres from the lines at Boirz – Les – Dames. His cousin Roland said that when he and Sidney met in the P.O.W. camp at Schweidenitz (they would later meet again at Holzminden) that Sidney said his gun had stopped and he was unable to defend himself.
According to Roland, Sidney was first imprisoned in the camp at Freiburg where he made a few unsuccessful escape attempts; he later succeeded and was on the run for two weeks before being recaptured. He was at some time sent to Schweidnitz and then Holzminden, where he met Cousin Roland once more, a 70 Squadron pilot who had also been shot down on 28 July 1917 whilst flying Sopwith Camel B3823/C5, the same day that 66 squadron’s South African 2/Lt James B Hine in A6216 was shot down and 2/Lt Thomas C Luke in B1724 was wounded.
It would appear that Hume was badly treated by the Germans during his stay in Freiburg and Schweidnitz and this affected his mental health. The British officers at Holzminden at one time tried to persuade the Germans to repatriate him back to the U.K. but they refused thinking it was a ruse to escape captivity, they later agreed and he was exchanged along with 51 others, arriving on 25 August 1918 at the Military Hospital Netley.
Sidney Hume was sent to 4 Hospital Latchmere House Military Hospital on Ham Common arriving on the 27 August suffering from delusional insanity. On arrival at Latchmere Sidney was examined by Maj Norman Oliver RAMC and Capt. Harvey Baird RAMC and they found him suffering from delusion, mostly about hypnotism; Sidney said he had been hypnotised by German Doctors, Oliver in his testimony to the Inquest on the body of Robert Aldridge on 6 December 1918 noted that he improved considerably and his delusions almost disappeared and that they (the delusions) had no influence on his conduct. Sidney was sent over to the convalescent side of the house where he could have more freedom, although searches were still carried out it appeared that prior to the death of Aldridge, Sidney, some three weeks earlier had been on a trip to St Johns Wood with his mother and Sister Agnes and on his return had not been searched, his room and locker were searched as normal, but a body search was not conducted when he became confined to his bed. His delusions had returned and he had spent most of the three weeks in bed. These were the events that led up to the sad events that unfolded on the night of 30 November 1918 and are set out in MCPO 3/258, which can be viewed at the National Archives, Kew, only a few miles from where the drama would take place, and strangely enough not very far away from where he would end his life.
On the night of Saturday 30 November 1918, the Head Attendant at Latchmere House, George Fryer saw Sidney at about 10.30, they had a short conversation and all seemed normal, at 10.40 Cpl Jarrett reported to Fryer that he believed that Pte Robert Aldridge had been shot. They went to the annex where Sidney was living and found Aldridge lying on the floor of the lavatory bleeding from a wound over the eye. Fryer then called the Medical Officer Capt. Harvey Baird who found Aldridge dead. Further investigations revealed that when Sidney rang the bell for the attendant Pte Aldridge responded, he was met by Sidney who said to him “hands up”, Robert refused and rushed forward to grapple with Sidney; Aldridge was shot in the head and died instantly. It was thought that Sidney was convinced that Aldridge was a German spy and the Germans were plotting to dominate the world. Matilda Aldridge, Robert’s wife lived at 2 Sherman Place, Sherman Road, Reading along with their two sons aged 9 and 8 had the dreadful task of formally identifying her husband.
Escape and Recapture
Hume escaped in his pyjamas and dressing gown via a fire escape; another patient Capt. Leon Eeman, R.A.F, possibly witnessed these events. (See below). The next day Hume was arrested in Queen Street, Hammersmith by PC 472 Thomas Malcolmson of T Division. At the time of the arrest Hume was carrying a six chamber loaded Webley 38 calibre revolver; amongst the possessions he had were another five live rounds. Detective Inspector John Ferrier of V Division arrived to escort Hume to Richmond with the aim of charging Hume with the murder of Aldridge. Hume protested about returning to Latchmere House before he had made a statement to Scotland Yard, saying that he “did it for reasons so important that I have put myself in this situation: I did it for the reason that my statement could not be suppressed; it was for the benefit of England”. Hume was then taken to Richmond to be charged with the murder.
The Trial of Sidney Hume
The Coroners inquiry took place on the 6 December at Kingston on Thames with Dr M.H. Taylor sitting. Various witnesses were called including Matilda, Robert’s wife. The Jury’s verdict was wilful murder against Sidney Stewart Hume, and a commendation for Officer Malcolmson from the Coroner and Jury. On Monday 9 December Hume was remanded to Brixton Prison by Kingston County Bench and was committed for trial in February 1919. On 14 December 1918 a statement was received by the Police at Wandsworth from a Lt. Robert S Nannaford in which it alleged that patients at Latchmere House were ill treated, a copy of the letter was sent to the War Office, and this was done on the 17th. In January 1919 Inspector Ferrier was informed by the Director of Public Prosecutions that Hume had been removed to Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum under the Criminal Lunatics Act, 1884, and that the case to be answered before Guildford Assizes would not take place. The witnesses were informed of the decision, but on 7 February Inspector Ferrier was requested by the Public Prosecutor to arrange for the witnesses to attend Court as Hume’s mental condition had improved. Sidney Hume was due to appear before the Surrey Assizes in Guildford on 1 March 1919. Mr Ronald Burrows was to prosecute on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Mr Travers Humphrey’s was to appear on the behalf of the defence. Hume was not to get his day in court; evidence was presented by Dr. Griffiths, the Brixton Prison medical officer, whereupon Mr Justice Horridge ordered Hume to be detained at His Majesty’s Pleasure. Sidney Hume had been suffering from delusions believing he had been hypnotised by German doctors whilst a P.O.W. according to a statement given to the Coroner by Major N. Oliver, who was in charge of Latchmere House at the time. Oliver stated the Hume had improved whilst in the hospital and because of this he had been allowed more freedom of movement. Hume’s mother and sister had both visited and had escorted him outside the hospital at times. It is thought that on one of these outings to his home in St Johns Wood that Sidney collected his revolver and hid it on his return to the hospital.
Major Oliver also informed the Court that Capt. Eeman, a possible witness was a mental case and was quite fit at the moment to attend court (1 December 1918), but that his condition varied from day to day. Sidney Hume, was to be a patient in Broadmoor for 49 years. By 1964 Hume was considered as suitable for move to an ordinary Mental Hospital, first of all he was considered for a move to Brookwood Mental Hospital, but he was used to a single room and appears to have led a somewhat solitary life and that he would not me suitable to be accommodated in a dormitory. He was next considered for a move to Banstead Mental Hospital, but they did not have a room, it was eventually agreed that he would move to Northumberland House on 15 February 1968 at 237 Ballards Lane, Finchley. But this was not to be his last move, Northumberland House closed down in 1976. A single room was found for Sidney in The Priory at Priory Lane, Roehampton, SW15, and he moved in on 20 April 1976. This is where he spent the remainder of his life. His Death Certificate gives his date and place of birth as 1 September 1886 in Argentina, and the cause of death as bronchopneumonia, senile dementia and chronic schizophrenia. At first I was unable to find out where he had been buried, but later research finds that he was cremated and his ashes interred in Kensal Green Cemetery in an unmarked location.
Leonard Eugene Eeman (AIR 76 spelling) was born in Ghent on the 18 May 1888, his parents were Leo Eugenius Albertus Maria Eeman an Advocat and Margareta Maria Constantia Cornelia Van Montenacken. When the family moved to England I am not sure. His London address was in Hilgrave Road, although he gave his mother-in-law, next of kin, as Mrs Ohlmann of Belsize Park in 1916. He was attached to the RFC from the 3 Bn Royal Fusiliers. He had been awarded RAeC certificate 1677 dated 23 August 1915 taken at the Military School Ruislip (Northolt). He was then posted to 4 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron also at Northolt and later in January 1916 he was sent to 22 Squadron as a Flight Commander. By October 1916 he was serving with 17 Squadron, which had moved from Heliopolis to Mikra Bay on 7 July 1916. By May 1917 he was back in England at the Wireless and Observers School possibly in Egypt on temporary duty, and again with the E & F. He was posted to Home Establishment on 9 October 1917. He had a succession of short-term postings through the early part of 1918 and in April 1918 he was found to be unfit for general service for three months. He was certainly at Latchmere House in the autumn of 1918 to witness the events as they unfolded. Eeman was discharged from the service in March 1919. He had been awarded the Sultan of Sudan’s Medal - Darfur Clasp in 1916. Eeman invented the Eeman mounting a triple Lewis gun mounting at 45 degrees usually used on the Martinsyde G.100 “Elephant”, some Elephants were used by 14 Sqn in 1916.
87384 Robert Aldridge was serving with 35 Company (Milbank) RAMC. He is buried Reading Cemetery (Wokingham Road). My thanks to Eunice Wilson for her original research into the Ham Common murder, Jeannie Barton of Brazil, and whose ancestors also lived in Argentina and her extensive contacts and Liz Tait for the photograph of Aldridge. If you wish to learn more about the Reading Cemetery and graves, visit Liz’s web page at http://www.readingremembrancetrust.co.uk/
Recently come to light are two books of poems and other writings of Hume from when he was locked away in Broadmoor, the example enclosed is date from around 1942.
Also new is the photograph of Latchmere House which was leased by the War Office in October1915. The text on the back says that the Special Hospital for Officers was due to open the following day, which would have been the 16 December 1915.
Updated 30 April 2015