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Remembered Today:

Death of Pte W O Hunter (previously Acute Dilitation of the Heart)


rolt968

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William Officer Hunter 5624, 1/5 Gordon Highlanders died of Acute Dilitation of the Heart on 19 October 1916, aged a few days over twenty.

Apparently Acute Dilitation of the Heart is a "silent" condition which can affect young people without warning. (Curiously the best information came from an article about a WW2 Canadian soldier.)

Unfortunately I haven't found where he died. I haven't found him in the battalion casualty lists - but I was looking for someone who died of wounds.

 

Can someone tell me if he is likely to have collapsed and died at the front or would he have become ill and been taken somewhere (CCS?) and then died?

 

Roger M

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

You can't say.

Most cardiac conditions in those days were as a result of rheumatic fever affecting the heart valves, either narrowing them (Stenosis) or making them unable to stop backflow (Incompetence).

If something is "acute", it is something of recent onset (as compared to chronic).

Several things can cause the heart to dilate, it could be due to stenosis of the aortic valve, making the left ventricle have to pump more forcefully to get the blood through. This would cause the muscle bulk to enlarge gradually up to a limit, at which the heart would begin to fail. At this point, the muscle bulk doesn't  get any bulkier instead the individual muscle fibre lengthens over time. Once that reaches the limit, you get a backlog of fluid in the lungs. Death from heart failure in those days would have been a chronic process though.

It is of course possible that he had some sort of undiagnosed cardiac condition, congenital heart disease or cardiomyopathy that might have been responsible. You sometimes hear of young fit athletes suddenly drop dead on exertion at around this age, and there is a screening process of echocardiography in place in football and rugby academies to setect this. In an otherwise seemingly fit young adult, the tell tale sign is a dilated heart on echo.

Gabby Logan (nee Yorath)'s brother died of this in his teens.

Of course in this condition, the cardiac dilatation is not acute, but chronic, but in those days, it would be undetectable, and would only be found at post mortem.

 

Other possibilities- an infection of an abnormal heart valve or hole in the heart, known as subacute bacterial endocarditis might be triggered in an abnormal heart after dental treatment. Or something weird like syphilis affecting the aorta.

 

 

Edit: The line "Gabby Logan (nee Yorath)'s brother died of this in his teens." initially read "Gabby Logan (nee Yorath) died of this in his teens."

My thanks to squirrel for pointing this out.

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15 minutes ago, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

You can't say.

Most cardiac conditions in those days were as a result of rheumatic fever affecting the heart valves, either narrowing them (Stenosis) or making them unable to stop backflow (Incompetence).

If something is "acute", it is something of recent onset (as compared to chronic).

Several things can cause the heart to dilate, it could be due to stenosis of the aortic valve, making the left ventricle have to pump more forcefully to get the blood through. This would cause the muscle bulk to enlarge gradually up to a limit, at which the heart would begin to fail. At this point, the muscle bulk doesn't  get any bulkier instead the individual muscle fibre lengthens over time. Once that reaches the limit, you get a backlog of fluid in the lungs. Death from heart failure in those days would have been a chronic process though.

It is of course possible that he had some sort of undiagnosed cardiac condition, congenital heart disease or cardiomyopathy that might have been responsible. You sometimes hear of young fit athletes suddenly drop dead on exertion at around this age, and there is a screening process of echocardiography in place in football and rugby academies to setect this. In an otherwise seemingly fit young adult, the tell tale sign is a dilated heart on echo.

Gabby Logan (nee Yorath) died of this in his teens.

Of course in this condition, the cardiac dilatation is not acute, but chronic, but in those days, it would be undetectable, and would only be found at post mortem.

 

Other possibilities- an infection of an abnormal heart valve or hole in the heart, known as subacute bacterial endocarditis might be triggered in an abnormal heart after dental treatment. Or something weird like syphilis affecting the aorta.

 

Thank you that is very useful. Do you think in those days he would have collapsed and died at or near the front line or felt ill and been sent down the line and died in hospital or on the way?

 

He is buried in Plot I of Ovillers Military Cemetery. Part of Plot I was a battle cemetery behind a dressing station, but other burials were brought in from the battlefields and other cemeteries.

 

Roger M

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

Roger,

It really could be either. Could have been a short illness with deterioration over a few days, or death following a sudden collapse.

I don't think it would have been due to something causing a longer illnessas he probably wouldn't have passed a medical to get into the army with an obvious cardiac defect.

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2 hours ago, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

Gabby Logan (nee Yorath) died of this in his teens..

Daniel Yorath, Gabby Logan's brother and son of Terry Yorath, was the one who died of a heart condition at 15 years old.

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
5 hours ago, squirrel said:

Daniel Yorath, Gabby Logan's brother and son of Terry Yorath, was the one who died of a heart condition at 15 years old.

Edit: Yes indeed, I missed out " 's brother " after the brackets.

She was talking about it on TV not so long ago.

I have amended my post, with acknowledgements.

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Would this diagnosis only be confirmed by postmortem examination? In which case, if he didn't have a PM, it's a best guess?

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
2 hours ago, PhilB said:

Would this diagnosis only be confirmed by postmortem examination? In which case, if he didn't have a PM, it's a best guess?

I would imagine so, yes.

I'm not sure there was much chest radiography going on in the front line, maybe hospitals further back from the front.

Presumably made the diagnosis on clinical grounds- a young man, previously presumably well goes into heart failure, collapses and dies.

A cardiac cause is a pretty safe bet, and in this type of case, the old fashioned archaic medical terminology is used as a catch all.

Nowadays, dialatation of the heart chambers can only be properly diagnosed on ECHO. Yes you can see an enlarged heart on Chest X ray, but you can't determine from that whether the enlargement is due to hypertrophy of the muscle, or enlargement of the chambers.

You can clinically diagnose an enlaged heart by feeling where the lowermost, outermost beat of the heart is palpable, and deciding if that is displaced from where it should be, but again, you can't say if that is the muscle enlarged or the chamber dilated.

A PM would be unusual I would have thought, but not impossible. If you had a clinician who was perplexed, and interested, it's possible a PM was done.

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  • 9 months later...

Many thanks to all who have helped me with the death of William Officer Hunter so far. Searching my notes for something else I found the local newspaper report of his death which raises more questions about his death.

The report is from the Brechin Advertiser of 9 January 1917 (a fortnight before the report in the Daily Casualty List).

A minor point; it gives his date of death as 18 December 1916 - as do the death record, the Registers' of Soldiers Effects and the inscription on the family gravestone.

 

More importantly it says that he enlisted in June 1916 and was posted (date not specified) to [1/5] Gordon Highlanders but before he got there he was found to be ill and sent to a "convalescent camp"  where his condition was found to be more serious and he "shortly died".

 

I am not sure what is meant by "convalescent camp", but his dying there doesn't seem to match with burial at Ovilliers Military Cemetery.

I'm interpreting "convalescent camp" as some kind of hospital. Was there one near Ovillers in December 1916?

RM

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13 minutes ago, rolt968 said:

Many thanks to all who have helped me with the death of William Officer Hunter so far. Searching my notes for something else I found the local newspaper report of his death which raises more questions about his death.

The report is from the Brechin Advertiser of 9 January 1917 (a fortnight before the report in the Daily Casualty List).

A minor point; it gives his date of death as 18 December 1916 - as do the death record, the Registers' of Soldiers Effects and the inscription on the family gravestone.

 

More importantly it says that he enlisted in June 1916 and was posted (date not specified) to [1/5] Gordon Highlanders but before he got there he was found to be ill and sent to a "convalescent camp"  where his condition was found to be more serious and he "shortly died".

 

I am not sure what is meant by "convalescent camp", but his dying there doesn't seem to match with burial at Ovilliers Military Cemetery.

I'm interpreting "convalescent camp" as some kind of hospital. Was there one near Ovillers in December 1916?

RM

The war gratuity shows he had 12 months or less service at the time of his death so June 16 could be right. Allowing 3-4 months for training and he could have been out to France before December 16.

The convalescent depots were for men who were either recovering after treatment and didn't need much in the way of ongoing hospital treatment or those who were ill but there wasn't much needed medically. It sounds like he was sent to the camp as he was ill, but not believed to be too serious, and he then took a took a turn for the worst.


Craig

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Many thanks Craig.

 

I had used you calculator and initially put his enlistment as sometime in 1916 in my  write up then found the notes of the newspaper article tucked away. Thank you for the help on the training time.

 

I wonder if he actually got to a convalescent depot. Wouldn't burial at Ovillers be too close to the front? I will have a look at 1/5 GH war diary and see when the replacements arrived about December 1916.

 

RM

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

So, following on from my Post #4 above, it does sound after all that he did have some pre-existing condition when he attested in June, which then deteriorated in the intervening months, which finally ends in his death in October or December.

I see from the CWGC site that he was aged 20.

My guess as to the likeliest cause of death 100 years on:

1) a) Acute Cardiac Failure due to 1) b.) Rheumatic Valvular Disease due to 1) c)  Pre-existing Rheumatic Fever   or

1) a) Acute Cardiac Failure due to 1) b.) Dilated Cardiomyopathy 

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T

24 minutes ago, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

So, following on from my Post #4 above, it does sound after all that he did have some pre-existing condition when he attested in June, which then deteriorated in the intervening months, which finally ends in his death in October or December.

I see from the CWGC site that he was aged 20.

My guess as to the likeliest cause of death 100 years on:

1) a) Acute Cardiac Failure due to 1) b.) Rheumatic Valvular Disease due to 1) c)  Pre-existing Rheumatic Fever   or

1) a) Acute Cardiac Failure due to 1) b.) Dilated Cardiomyopathy 

Many thanks.

 

(The October rather December is my clerical error. 19 rather than 18 may be CWGC.)

 

Presumably neither of those conditions would have shown anything in his medical examination in June 1916?

RM

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As mentioned in post 11, Ovillers does seem an unlikely burial place for a man who died in a medical establishment. However, by the end of the Somme battles it was about 3 miles from the front. Maybe convalescent camps were deliberately sited close to the front to prevent "demilitarisation" of patients expected to be short term?

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
57 minutes ago, rolt968 said:

Presumably neither of those conditions would have shown anything in his medical examination in June 1916?

RM

We'll never know.

He might have had no signs in the case of cardiomyopathy, or he might have had a murmur in the case of valvular disease which was deemed inocuous at the time.

So he may well have been sent on when he actually did have a life threatening illness.

We're lucky nowadays to have so many safety nets and investigative devices, that we can pick up these abnormalities quite easily and adjust management accordingly.

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46 minutes ago, PhilB said:

As mentioned in post 11, Ovillers does seem an unlikely burial place for a man who died in a medical establishment. However, by the end of the Somme battles it was about 3 miles from the front. Maybe convalescent camps were deliberately sited close to the front to prevent "demilitarisation" of patients expected to be short term?

Thanks Phil

 

I hadn't thought of that.

 

I assume that the newspaper account came from his parents. I wonder who sent them that version of his death.

RM

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The War Diary (ancestry) is interesting:

17 December 1916: Wolfe Huts: ............. Today a draft of 28 OR joined the battalion.

18 December 1916: Wolfe Huts: A draft of 72 OR joined the battalion today ...............

 

It seems reasonable to me to suppose that Pte William Hunter was meant to be part of one of those drafts but somewhere on the way was found to be seriously ill.

What do other people think?

RM

 

Edit: The battalion had moved from Ovillers Huts on 15 December.

Edit 2: The summary at the end of the month says that the number of reinforcements received in the week ending 22 December was 99 not 100.

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