Name of Researcher / Enw’r ymchwylydd: Mavis Williams and Viv Williams
Name of Memorial / Enw’r gofeb: Connahs Quay
Name / Enw: Hughes, John
Regiment/Catrawd: Royal Army Service Corps, 14th Line of Communication Coy.
Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: Private TU/219007
Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Calais Southern Cemetery
Ref No Grave or Memorial / Rhif cyfeirnod bedd: Plot F. Row 2. Grave 7.
Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France
Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: Victory & British Medals
Date of Death: 18th December 1916
Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:
Died on the 18th December 1916 age 30 as the result of a railway accident 2 days previously
John Hughes was the son of John and Mary Hughes. He was recorded in the census of 1891 living with his family in Quay Road, Northop. Head of the household, John Hughes (snr) was 44 and was a General Labourer who had been born in Northop. His wife Mary, 45, had been born in Netherwitton, Northumberland. Their listed children were Sarah J 15, Catherine 13, Isabella 9 and John was 4.
John was awarded a £6 scholarship to Hawarden County School where he was listed on the Honours Board.
The 1901 census records the family living at 38 Cestrian Street Connah’s Quay. John Hughes (snr) was listed as a Builder’s Carter aged 53. His wife Mary was 54. The only child listed in the household was John who was 14 and a Draper’s Apprentice. There was a boarder, William Pearson who worked in the Ironworks.
By the 1911 census, John Hughes (Snr) had died. His son and namesake John Hughes, then 24 was listed as Head of the Household at 38 Cestrian Street, Connah’s Quay. He was single and a Shop Assistant. His widowed mother Mary was 65. At the house were three nieces Amy Hughes 9, Bessie Hughes 8 and Lilian Cooper 6.
John was a member of the Connah’s Quay Silver Prize Band and was on the Committee of the band. He is listed on this handwritten Roll of Honour which states that he ‘died of injuries’
John Hughes married Mary Catherine Peters on the 12th June 1916 (Haw/05/64). She was the daughter of James and Mary Peters. (James Peters was a Butcher and Farmer of Bod Offa Farm, Buckley). Mary Catherine Peters was well known locally as Miss Katie Peters, contralto. Her name is mentioned on quite a lot of Newspaper reports of Concerts etc., where she performed after John’s death, which I think was very brave of her after her tragic loss. John Hughes joined the army 4 months after the wedding.
There is an index card for John Hughes in The Flintshire Roll of Honour at The County Record Office in Hawarden (Card F29 Connah’s Quay). This card tells us that he served for just 11 weeks and that he was ‘killed’ in Calais on the 20th December 1916, which is at odds with the official documents above.. The card was signed 16th December 1919 by J. Roberts.
UK Soldiers who Died in The Great War 1914 -19 accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk confirms all the regimental details above and tells us he enlisted in Flint. He had been born and lived in Connah’s Quay. This source tells us that he ‘died’ (as opposed to being killed in action, or died of wounds). This suggests that his death was the result of either accident or illness).
His service Records have survived in good condition and are accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk. We know that he appeared at a Tribunal to contest his conscription and that this ‘Appeal Tribunal recommend non combatant service on account of being a lay preacher of United M Church’ The Tribunal issued him with a temporary certificate for ‘non combatant service which was valid until the 11th September 1916 and was not renewable.
His records show that he was allocated to Home service from 5th October 1916 to the 8th November 1916. They also show that John Hughes cancelled his non combatant certificate in a handwritten note, dated 16th October 1916. Seems strange as the certificate had expired anyway on the 11th September 1916
“I John Hughes hereby cancel the attached certificate for non combatant service and accept service in the ASC as a loader. Signed John Hughes”.
His attestation papers are different from most others and were approved in Aldershot on the 18th October 1916 when he was appointed to the Army Service Corps. We learn from the Attestation form that he was 29 years and 10 months old, was 5 feet 10 inches tall and was a ‘Draper and Outfitter’. He was living at 32 Cestrian Street with his wife Mary Catherine Hughes (nee Peters). They had married in Buckley on 12th June 1916. She was named as his Next of Kin.
He was posted to the Army Service Corps in Calais, France from 9th November 1916. 4 weeks and 4 days after arriving in France, John met with a dreadful accident which resulted 2 days later in his death.
In the midst of all the death and destruction of 1916, the Army held a full enquiry into John Hughes’s accident.
‘Proceedings of a Court of Enquiry
..assembled at No 1 Camp Calais on the 22nd December 1916 by order of Lieut. Col. H.J.G Woods DSO o/c Base Supply Depot for the purpose of enquiring into and reporting upon the circumstances under which No T/4219007 Pte Hughes J. received injuries which proved fatal.’
The first witness to the Enquiry was No S/4/070375 Actg Sargt Benson F.T. 14 l of C Coy ASC. He was sworn in and then stated:-
“On Saturday evening the 16th inst at Calais about 6.10pm I left the Green Hangar with the deceased Pte Hughes J. He was returning to the Personnel Office & I was on my way to town. We had passed between the green and yellow hangars and also the stacks of supplies beyond. We had then to cross the railway line. There was a long train of full trucks on this line the best part of a quarter of a mile long.
On arriving at this line the deceased walked to the right and I to the left, both of us seeking an opening between the trucks through which to pass.
After I had proceeded a few yards, the deceased called out to me, “Sergeant I have found an opening” Almost at the same moment I heard the movement of buffers being banged against one another and I cried out ‘ Look out the train is shunting’. I heard no reply and proceeded to walk in his direction at the same time shouting out a further warning.
As I approached I heard moans. The night was pitch dark & I struck matches to try & find out where the moans came from. Shortly afterwards I found him, his left leg across the line and body and right leg outside the line. I immediately dragged him to a place of safety and called for help with the result that Pte Peckham and some French and Belgians came along.
The Belgians had an acetylenelamp. Leaving Pte Peckham in charge I went to the medical tent, reported the accident and returned with a motor ambulance on which the injured man was placed & subsequently sent to No 30 General Hospital by order of the M.O. in no 1 camp.
I spoke to Pte Hughes immediately after the accident and I asked him what had happened but he said that his mind was blank and he could remember nothing. I again asked him at the hospital but he was unable to tell me anything”.
Witness Pte Peckham then gave his short statement which corroborated Sgt Benson’s account above.
No 30 General Hospital Army Form 1237
Medical Case Sheet
T4/219007 Private Hughes J
ASC 14th L of C Unit Age 30 Service 3/12
Disease 1168 b Rupture of Liver
Calais 16.12.16. Admitted on evening of 16.12.16. with contusion of abdomen, crushed by buffer of truck. When seen, cold and collapsed, pulse very small and slow. Not much rigidity of abdomen and no dullness in flanks. Abrasion of skin right hypochendrium.
Seen two hours later he was warmer. He had vomited some dark coloured fluid containing blood. Abolition of liver dullness in front, no dullness in flanks.Exploratory laporatomy. No free gas, some blood in right loin, tear in post pact of right lobe and packed with gauze.
17.12.16. Patient rallied somewhat but became weaker towards evening with signs of further haemorrhage.
18.12.16. Died 9.10 am.
PM (Post Mortem)
Fracture of 6th 7th and 8th ribs at side.
Multiple laceration of liver and intra periteanal haemorrhage
Slight laceration of right kidney and suprarenal body.
No lesion of hollow viscera
Contusion of lower lobe of right lung and about a pint of blood in right pleurial cavity
Signed ********* Kelly (mostly illegible) Capt RAMC
The Outcome of the Enquiry
President M Barnett Captain ASC.
Members H F Farnhill-Scott Lieut. ASC and GBH Coppard 2nd Liet ASC
“I am of the opinion that Pte J Hughes ASC 14th L of C Coy, met with his death by an accident while attempting to pass between two railway trucks when shunting operations were going on. The deceased was returning to his camp from his military duties at the time.
I consider that the accident was due to the deceased taking the risk of passing between the trucks instead of taking the precaution to walk around the train”.
Signed by Lt Col B G G Woods 22nd/ 12/1916
Concurred by D L Taylor Col. Base Commandant
Calais 26/12 1916
County Herald 29th December 1916. Buckley Family’s Bereavement
The sympathy of the whole neighbourhood is extended to our well known highly respected resident Mr James Peters JP and the members of his family. The sad news has been communicated from France that Mr John Hughes, Connah’s Quay, son – in -law of Mr Peters has died but the particular cause of death does not appear to have come. Mr Hughes went to France 5 weeks ago and was attached to the Sergeant Major’s Office staff. Mr Hughes and Miss Peters (better known as Miss Katie Peters, the favourite contralto singer) were married about 6 months ago.
The Register of Soldier’s Effects in which the army calculated what monies were owed to deceased soldiers includes an entry for John Hughes. His sole legatee was his widow who received in total £7 ..13sh ..3d.
County Herald 9th May 1919 Connah’s Quay – Proposed War Memorial
The returned soldier and sailor members of The Presbyterian Church have formed themselves into a committee with the view of erecting in the church a permanent memorial to their fallen comrades. Mr Douglas Robb has been appointed secretary and Mr John Norton, Treasurer. In connection with this work a cantata and sacred concert will be held at the church on Sunday next when items will be rendered by Mr T Roberts of Buckley (organist) Madame K Peters-Hughes (Contralto) and Mr J P Coppack (Baritone)
County Herald 9th September 1919 Connah’s Quay Memorial Tablet Unveiled
In connection with the Wepre PresbyterianChurch there was a special memorial service on the occasion of the unveiling of the tablet rected to the memory of five worshippers of the church who fell in the war.
“The Dedication lesson was read by Mr J Forber JP after which Madame Katie Peters Hughes exquisitely rendered ‘O Rest in the Lord’ “
John Hughes is named on the memorial Plaque in St Mark’s Church Connah’s Quay.