Private Hugh Hargrave Wyatt-Smith died of peritonitis in the Military Hospital, Endell Street, London as a result of appendicitis. He had served in the military for only 37 days and was just a few days past his 18th birthday.
He was born on 9th February 1898 at Gunton, Orange River Colony, South Africa, and was the eldest of the five children of farmer Rupert Wyatt-Smith and his wife, Emily Agnes Byron (née Bowen) who was known as Maud. Sadly, three of their children – Hugh, Jack and Amy – died before reaching the age of 21. Hugh and Amy (a probationer nurse) died of illness in 1916 and 1922 respectively, whilst Jack was killed in a flying accident in Italy in 1918.
The family’s local connection to Solihull is that both boys attended Packwood Haugh Preparatory School in Glasshouse Lane, Hockley Heath before going on to Sherborne School in Dorset. Hugh entered Packwood in 1909, before attending Sherborne from January 1912 until December 1915. During his time at Sherborne he won the Longmuir English Prize in 1915 and was a member of the Cricket 1st XI. Only a few weeks after leaving school, he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles 0n 12th January 1916.
His service record notes that he was in the Officer Training Corps at Sherborne and it would have been expected that he would have been commissioned as soon as he had finished his training. However, just over a month into his training, he was taken ill with abdominal pains whilst on parade on 14th February and rushed by ambulance to the Military Hospital, Endell Street. He underwent an operation on 16th February during which his service record notes that a “gangrenous appendix” was removed. Unfortunately, peritonitis had set in after the appendix ruptured and he died at 6:45pm on 17th February.
His funeral took pace at St John’s Church, Merrow, Surrey, which was the home of his paternal grandmother, and where Hugh had spent most of his school holidays. He was buried with military honours, and the funeral was attended by 24 of his comrades from the Artists’ Rifles, six of whom acted as pall-bearers, and the others formed the firing squad that fired three volleys over the grave.
He is commemorated at Packwood Haugh and Sherborne Schools, and a photograph of him is included in the school’s Book of Remembrance online.
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