Wilfred John Mann HUGHES

HUGHES, Wilfred John Mann

Service Number: 326
Enlisted: 1 February 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd Division Medium and Heavy Trench Mortar Batteries, AIF
Born: Glenelg, South Australia, 29 April 1895
Home Town: St Peters (SA), Norwood Payneham St Peters, South Australia
Schooling: St. Peter's College
Occupation: Labourer/University Student
Died: Killed in Action, Wulvergem, Belgium, France, 10 April 1918, aged 22 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France
Memorials: Adelaide Cambrai WW1 Roll of Honour, Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Hackney St Peter's College Fallen Honour Board, Men from Renmark and District Roll of Honor Boards (4), Sedan Institute Honour Roll, Sedan Pioneers and War Memorial and Flagpole, St Peters All Souls Anglican Church Honour Board WW1, St Peters Heroes War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
Show Relationships

World War 1 Service

1 Feb 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 326, 27th Infantry Battalion, Keswick, South Australia
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 326, 27th Infantry Battalion,

embarkation_roll: roll_number: 15 embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Geelong embarkation_ship_number: A2 public_note:

31 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 326, 27th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
12 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 326, 27th Infantry Battalion, The August Offensive - Lone Pine, Suvla Bay, Sari Bair, The Nek and Hill 60 - Gallipoli
3 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 326, 27th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
10 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, 326, 2nd Division Medium and Heavy Trench Mortar Batteries, AIF, German Spring Offensive 1918

Our guns are overrun.....Trench Mortar Battery War Diary 10th April 1918

This extract from the War Diary reveals the close quarters and confusion of the attack: All six guns of this battery were captured (by the enemy); A1 gun fired its SOS rounds (emergency defensive fire) but had to leave the gun hurriedly after the fifth round because the enemy were sniping at the gun team from 50 yards range. One man was killed and another badly wounded but the remaining three managed to escape fetching the wounded man with them......

.....Captain JB Darling, MC visited the left section and with three men, namely Cpl Hughes, WJM, Gnr Brown, WP and Gnr Welch AA, worked a rear-guard action with a 2 inch MTM (a 'toffee apple' Medium Trench Mortar) in the vicinity of the Polka Estaminet. 8 rounds were fired and the enemy temporarily held up. Gnr Welch was killed while returning along the St Elor road in front of Oostervorn Wood. Captain Darling was wounded. While carrying him to a dressing station, CPL Hughes was killed. Gnr Brown took Captain Darling to the dressing station and leaving him there reported back to the HQ. Captain Darling was listed as wounded believed missing. This because the dressing station he was at was practically surrounded by the enemy when Gnr Brown left Captain Darling. Casualties today were Capt Darling missing, Cpl Hughes killed, Gnr Welch killed of left section. Gnr Furphey WA, Gnr Crapp JA, missing believed killed, Gnr Clelland, CS, wounded, Gnr Higgins H missing, Gnr Scott, JE, missing, Gnr Young, FD missing, Gnr Hughes H slightly wounded, Bdr (Bombadier - an artillery Corporal) Mulchane JW slightly wounded.

Captain Darling MC is not listed on the Honour Roll so it is presumed he survived - although whether he was captured is not yet determined.

Showing 1 of 1 story


Surname: HUGHES; Given Names: Wilfred John Mann; Date of Birth: 29 April 1895; Date of Enlistment: 1 February 1915; Trade or Calling: University Student; Birth Location: Adelaide; Address prior to enlistment: Fourth Ave St Peters; Photograph sent by: Mrs Hughes (mother)
Source: State Records SA

Service record extract: HUGHES Wilfred John Mann : Service Number - 326 : Place of Birth - Glenelg SA : Place of Enlistment - Keswick SA : Next of Kin - (Father) HUGHES John Bristow of 4th Avenue St Peters, an inner NE suburb of Adelaide

Son of Mr John Bristow Hughes, and Mrs E.M. Hughes, Wilfred was 19 9/12 years old and a University student on enlistment on 1 February 1915.  He had previously served in the 78th Battalion Infantry (Citizens Forces)

He was assigned to the 27th Battalion and embarked with the main body of the unit aboard HMAT Geelong A2, on the 31 May 1915 from Outer Harbour.  

After disembarking in Egypt and undergoing further training, he and his comrades left for Gallipoli on the 4th September, landing on the beach on the 12th.  He served through most of the balance of the campaign although he was hospitalised briefly with an undisclosed illness in November and then on the 3rd December he sustained a shrapnel wound and was treated by the 7th Field Ambulance before being discharged to duty.

The Battalion evacuated ANZAC via Mudros then to Alexandria during the period late December to early January.  Back in Alexandria the AIF re-grouped and prepared for embarkation to France, via the port of Marseilles and a long train journey to the area of the Belgian border near Armentieres.

In April he was evacuated sick with bronchitis via No 8 Casualty Clearing Station.

Wilfred was promoted to the rank of Temporary Corporal in June 1916 and shortly after wards transferred to the V2A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, where he was to remain for the rest of his service.  His promotion to Corporal was confirmed.

He undertook training at the Trench Mortar School in July, re-joining the unit for the Third Ypres campaign before heading for a long course at the Trench Mortar School.  He did not re-join his Battery until March 1918.  The V2A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery appears to have been re-designated Corps V Heavy Trench Mortar Battery as it s diary ceased at the end of February 1918.

In late March early April 1918, the great German offensive broke across the Allied Front and the Australian Divisions were hurriedly deployed and in some cases themselves dispersed into Brigade groups to help plug the many gaps that opened up in the Allied Front Line.

In an offensive of such scale, the Allied artillery and fire support positions were among the priority targets of the attacking force. Mortars in particular attract the attention of enemy artillery, which outranges the mortars.  In the worst case scenario, enemy infantry get among the guns.

The War Diary records that it was deployed near Wulverghem at Grid  T 6 c. 15.45 Sheet 28 (a map reference) in  Belgium in the vicinity of Messines, when a large enemy attack commenced at 5am on the 10th April, as part of the German Lys (named for the  river in the region) .  The Battery was overrun  by enemy infantry and was fighting for its life. (see story)

Thus Wilfred Hughes was killed in action on the 10th April 1918 while defending the guns and in the process of trying to help one of his comrades to safety, which he himself was to be denied.  He was 23 years old (not 24 as shown in the AWM Honour Roll). His body would likely have been lost in the confusion of the attack and in all probability would have been buried in situ by the Germans 


Wilfred Hughes’ Medals:

1914/15 Star: 2271

British War Medal: 13185

Victory Medal: 13125

Commemorative Plaque: 343545

Submitted by Steve Larkins

Read more from the book Fallen Saints  - Wilfred John Mann Hughes was born at Glenelg and later attended the Reverend Donald Kerr’s school in that suburb.

In 1908, he left to attend the Collegiate School of St Peter and when it became apparent his flair for Chemistry was matched by his intense interest in the subject he was guided into making it his career. He served 6 months in the 78th Infantry as a senior cadet and after leaving the School gained employment with F. H. Faulding & Co., before enrolling at the Adelaide University.

He enlisted at Keswick Barracks on 5 February 1915, was posted to C Company Base Infantry at Oaklands Park and transferred to B Company 27 Battalion in March; he was made provisional Corporal in May and sailed from Adelaide aboard HMAT Geelong at the end of the month.

Following further training in Egypt, he embarked for Gallipoli and after landing at Anzac on 12 September 1915 suffered a shrapnel wound to his hand on 2 December; he was treated at 7th Field Ambulance and discharged for full duty the same day.  

After the evacuation he returned to Egypt and proceeded to France in March where on 25 April 1916 he was admitted to hospital with Bronchitis; he rejoined the battalion on 3 May and at the end of the month was promoted to temporary corporal. He was promoted to substantive Corporal on 11 June 1916 and taken on the strength of the V2A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, Australian Field Artillery. After completing a number of Trench Mortar courses between June and December 1917 he was posted to the Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, Australian Corps in Feb 1918.  

These few lines from a letter he wrote to the School on 5 March 1918 show how the adversity of war had served to strengthen the boyhood friendships formed in the Old School yard.

 The other day when coming out of the line I heard that Cyril Counsell and Prockter were quite near, so went over and had a good yarn with them. They are both looking very well. Then today I ran into quite a colony of old ‘Saints.’ There were Pat Auld (Capt.), W. Beresford, Fred Wakelin, and Ray Goodman (Lieutenants), John Hill, and McBride, and stopped yarning with them for a long time, so I’ve been lucky to see quite a number of old pals. [i]

Corporal Wilfred Hughes was killed in action on 10 April 1918; he was 24 years of age.

On 7 May 1918, Captain Frederick Darling MC by then in No 3 London General Hospital, Wandsworth, England wrote to Wilfred’s father.

Dear Mr. Hughes,

                Not knowing you it is rather difficult to know really what particulars to give you in regard to your son. I think I will risk it and tell all I know. He was in the line in front of Wytschaete when the Hun broke through on April 10th.During the early afternoon of that day he undertook the rather difficult job of blowing up one of our mortars, which was then just in front of our line, and completed it satisfactorily. He afterward took charge of a mortar detachment and fired his gun until it became a casualty, displaying great coolness. His next stunt was to assist in carrying a wounded man in from No Man’s Land under enemy fire. Then I had the misfortune to get my leg shattered, and he with another man carried me to the nearest Aid Post under intense enemy fire. He accompanied me down on the light railway truck and was shot through the head by a machine gun bullet shortly after we started. Death was absolutely instantaneous; he did not suffer at all.  I am much afraid that none of his personal effects were saved, but of course do not know for certain. Lieut. Bond of the same Battery may know. I hope the foregoing may give you an idea of the stuff your son was made of. I want you to believe me when I say that your son ranked with the finest of those who have made our army what it is. He was fearless where duty was concerned and had a smile for all misfortunes and hard knocks. We in the Battery respect and honour him as a man who did his duty to the full and lived and honourable, straight, and clean life. More than this no man can be. You can be wonderfully proud of him. He has been, I understand, recommended for a decoration, and I sincerely hope the authorities grant same as tangible proof of his worth. However, if this does not come, you will know him for what he is and that is the main thing.

Yours very sincerely,

                                                                    F.B. DARLING, Captain.

                                                                    O.C. V/Aust. Corps H.T.M.B.S.  [ii]

Wilfred’s brothers, both St Peter's College Old Scholars, also enlisted for service in the AIF; on 5 April 1918 Private Leonard Hughes, 48th Battalion was reported missing. It was ascertained later that he had been at Amiens and taken prisoner; he was repatriated back to Australia after the war.

Percival Hughes enlisted in July 1918, but fortunately, due to the cessation of hostilities, the 18 year old was discharged from Mitcham Camp in December.

[i] St Peter’s School Magazine - W K Thomas & Co, Adelaide, August 1918, p. 60
[ii] ibid, p. 61