A FORMER rower who was Leander Club’s longest surviving member has died, aged 103.
Richard Hylton-Smith, of West Street, Henley, passed away on New Year’s Eve, leaving his 96-year-old widow Margaret, children Christopher, 62, and Serena, 58, and six grandchildren.
He was born in Fulham on November 7, 1912. His father owned a car dealership in Kensington and Mr Hylton-Smith followed him into the trade.
During the Second World War he served in the 23rd London Armoured Car Company and was then transferred to the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.
He took part in the Sicily landings and the movement that followed the D-Day landings, arriving in Normandy on the third day of the invasion.
He met Mrs Hylton-Smith, a Red Cross nurse, after befriending her brother and visiting the family home in 1940. The couple married the following year and were together for three months but then didn’t see each other until the conflict ended.
Mr Hylton-Smith finished his service as a major. He had to re-establish the family business on his own as it had closed down during the war and lost its premises while his father had retired.
He relocated it to Kilburn and started again with £300 while his wife worked as his secretary.
Mr Hylton-Smith was a member of Quintin Boat Club and Auriol Kensington Rowing Club. In 1947, when he was 34, he won the Wyfold Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in the men’s coxless four. He would later describe this as the “biggest moment” in his rowing career.
The following year, his attempt at the Stewards’ Challenge Cup was denied by a crew containing Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson, who later won gold in the men’s coxless pairs at that year’s London Olympics. He also raced in the 1949 Silver Goblets but hit the booms just before Fawley.
When he turned 90 in 2002, he celebrated by rowing on the Thames with his younger brother Kenneth, a former secretary of Leander Club. He gave up rowing a hobby shortly afterwards, having last rowed competitively at the 1965 Head of the River race.
Mr Hylton-Smith was a senior member of Leander’s Lensday lunch club and had two parties to celebrate his 100th birthday as well as receiving the traditional congratulations card from the Queen.
He was joined at Leander Club by 50 family, friends and fellow members then enjoyed a family-only affair in Ascot. Subsequent birthdays were also celebrated at the club, which has expressed regret at his passing.
Mr Hylton-Smith said rowing contributed to his longevity, as did the fact that he had never smoked and only drank in moderation.
On reaching 100, he said it did not feel like an achievement as he had not changed his lifestyle to get there.
He said that rowing had been “important” to him, adding: “I would say to any young man to take hard exercise all your life.”
The funeral arrangements are yet to be announced.