Ronald (Ron) HUGHES

HUGHES, Ronald

Service Number: SX12752
Enlisted: 13 May 1941, Wayville, SA
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Peterborough, South Australia , 16 March 1921
Home Town: Orroroo, Orroroo/Carrieton, South Australia
Schooling: Orroroo Public School, South Australia
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, Egypt, 30 October 1942, aged 21 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
Plot A1 Row C Grave 1.
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Blinman & District WW2 Roll of Honour, Blinman Boer War, WW1 & WW2 Honour Rolls, Orroroo and District Roll of Honour WW2
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World War 2 Service

13 May 1941: Involvement Private, SX12752
13 May 1941: Enlisted Wayville, SA
13 May 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX12752, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Involvement

‘Ever remembered by mother, father and family.’

Ron was the fifth and youngest son of Frederick David John and Jeanie Miller Hughes. He was born in the Railway town of Peterborough on the 16th March, 1921. His brothers included Thomas John, Frederick William, John Anderson (Jack) and Gordon Leslie (Joe). Frederick had originally lived in Burra, but after marrying Jeanie, the young couple moved to Orroroo, a small farming country town in the mid-north of South Australia, known for its wheat and sheep farming. Orroroo was connected to the larger town of Peterborough by rail line. The close-knit community had a local school, the Orroroo Public School where most children attended, at least for their Primary years.
20-year-old Ron, a labourer and his 29-year-old brother Frederick, a motor driver, both enlisted at Orroroo on the 2nd May ’41. Ron was given the number SX12752 and allocated to the 2/48th Battalion, and Fred the following number SX12753. Fred was initially placed in the 2/43rd sister battalion to the 2/48th, however following a bout of illness, he was placed in the 2/27th then eventually the 2/7th Field Regiment.
At Wayville, Ron contracted an upper respiratory tract infection, which caused him to be hospitalised for almost a week. At a similar time, Fred developed bronchitis with the army sending him home to recuperate, but he was soon transferred to the Orroroo Hospital for a further week of treatment before he was able to return to his battalion. Both brothers embarked for the Middle East on the 18th September, ’41 arriving on the 20th October. During those early days the battalion settled into camps, but besides regular army duties was the need to quickly adapt to the locals. The new soldiers were soon involved in intense conflicts where the reputation of the 2/48th Battalion for being the most highly decorated but decimated battalion was earned. Ron was to become one of the famed Rats of Tobruk.
By January ’42 Ron was briefly promoted to Acting Corporal whilst he attended a week-long Stretcher Bearer Course. Soon after, possibly from the lifting of heavy equipment he developed a hernia, for which he was treated. On re-joining his battalion, he reverted to Private, but was again promoted in November that same year whilst undergoing training with the Infantry Special Group. He had scarcely re-joined the 2/48th Battalion where he again reverted to being a Private. Within weeks, aged just 21, he was killed in action on the 30th October ’42.
At that time, fierce fighting was underway in the massive assault to take Trig 29. Described in ‘Tobruk to Tarakan’ by John Glenn that day was the ‘bloodiest fighting in the history of the 2/48th Battalion’ with ‘only forty-one weary troops remaining in the field’ that night was pronounced as the climax of the Alamein Battle. His final summing up was ‘Truly it can be said of these men, “They fought themselves and their enemy to a standstill until flesh and blood could stand no more, then they went on fighting.” ‘When next the sun drove away those shadows from the desert, death would have reaped a rich harvest of gallant men.’ This was all that remained of these proud Rats of Tobruk. In total 48 men from the 2/48th lost their lives in this battle. In added high praise about those who tended the wounded and collected those killed in action “It says much for them that not one man was missing in their search over the four thousand yards from Trig 29 to the Blockhouse, or in the attack of 3,600 yards to Ring Contour 25.” An horrific battle for the proud and very brave 2/48th Battalion.
A soldier, describing the action to a war correspondent, stated: “On the night of October 30-31 our job was to cut west across Thompson’s Post, take the railway, straddle the coast road, and then work back cleaning up enemy pockets and strong posts. We straddled the road all right, and then started to work east, D Company cleaning up between the road and the sea. It was easy at first, but then we ran into real opposition. We saw a couple of lights shoot up from a there were two humps, one on the left and one on the right, with a saddle between. We got within 50 yards and then they opened fire—and how!”
As the 2/48th Battalion left the Middle East, SX6856 ‘Beau’ Jones summarised the farewell given to their fellow soldiers who would not return home. In a final, poignant and very emotional published letter to his parents, Beau wrote “I am enclosing a pamphlet that I want you to keep for me. It is the dedication service of the War Cemetery held last night, an impressive and solemn rite. The band marched at slow tempo, and the guards reversed arms. The prayers, and the thousands of troops in array presented a beautiful but sad sight. The captain, reading the names of fallen comrades, broke down and wept. You can imagine the atmosphere which prevailed. I wish that the parents of those lads could have been present. I hope to be on my way home very soon.”
Ron was initially buried in the nearby Cemetery but in October, ’43 he and other soldiers were moved to the El Alamein War Cemetery where he now rests in Plot A1 Row C Grave 1. Around him are other young soldiers, mainly from the 2/43rd battalion. Ron’s parents chose the poignant inscription ‘Ever Remembered by Mother, Father and Family‘ for his headstone.
Ron’s brother, Fred was discharged in February ’46 in time to return home and have precious time with his father, Frederick who died aged 72, at the Orroroo Hospital in July that year and was buried in his hometown of Orroroo.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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