James Hughes was born circa 1920 in Connah’s Quay, the son of James & Eleanor Hughes, who married in St. Mark’s Church, Connah’s Quay, on the 26th April 1914. James was 25, a Bachelor, and a Moulder, living at 15, Cable St., and his father Jesse was a Platelayer. Eleanor was 23, a Spinster and lived at 7, Railway Terrace, her father was Benjamin Bennett, a Pilot. The married after Banns and their Witnesses were Alfred Jesse Hughes & Maggie Coppack.
I have no knowledge of James junior’s early life, so if anyone can add to his story please get in touch with the website, it will be gratefully received.
It appears the family were to suffer loss in 1932 as Eleanor died in March of that year according to the Millington Family Tree millinj3 (Ancestry) https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/49884950/person/240044487948/facts?_phsrc=mYP10177&_phstart=successSource
I believe that James was to remarry in a Civil Ceremony in the Holywell Registration District in 1937, (Flintshire (Mold) HOL/58/120). His bride was Elizabeth Hewitt and they are seen on the 1939 National Register which was taken on the 29th September 1939, (War had been declared on the 3rd September that year.)
This Register show them living at No. 3, Railway Terrace, Connah’s Quay, James was still an Iron Moulder and his birth date was recorded as the 23rd February 1889, whereas Elizabeth’s was given as the 13th July, no Known Year (N/K). There was also Audrey Hughes, at School, born on the 16th February 1927 and another record that was redacted.
I do not know when James (Junior) either enlisted or was conscripted into the services, but he was in the Royal Navy when he died and on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission citation James is seen to be with H.M.S. President 111, however this was a shore establishment, which really dealt with accounts for the different sections of the Royal Navy. Please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_President_(shore_establishment)
James was in fact with M.V Port Victor when he died. On the website Ships hit by U-boats https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/2897.html the story is told of what happened on the night of 30th April – 1st May 1943. M.V. Port Victor was of the Motor Merchant type and 12,411 tons, home port was London, and had been in a convoy with a complement of 164, the route was Buenos Aires – Montevideo (17 Apr) – Liverpool, Cargo – 7600 tons of refrigerated foodstuffs and 2000 tons of general cargo. Many thanks to this website https://uboat.net without which I would not be able to tell the stories of James and other men and boys from the Deeside area. Their help has been invaluable.
Notes on event
At 00.30 hours on 1 May 1943, U-107 fired a spread of two stern torpedoes at the unescorted Port Victor (Master William Gordon Higgs, OBE) northeast of the Azores, which was zigzagging directly into a good firing position in about 1000 meters distance. The ship carried 65 passengers (including 23 women and children), stopped after one torpedo hit amidships and the crew made the lifeboats ready to be launched. After a first coup de grâce hit amidships at 00.36 hours the boats were lowered, but when she was hit in the bow by a second coup de grâce at 00.45 hours two lifeboats were destroyed and the occupants killed. The vessel developed a list to port but still sent radio messages until being hit underneath the bridge by a third coup de grâce, which broke the ship in two and caused her to sink. Twelve crew members, two gunners and five passengers were lost. The master, 74 crew members, ten gunners and 60 passengers were picked up by HMS Wren (U 28) (LtCdr R.M. Aubrey, RN) and landed at Liverpool.
The ship had been sunk by U-107 (Harald Gelhaus)
Crew list of Ships hit by U-boats
RN (D/JX 335848). British
Died 1 May 1943 (20)
Roster information listed for James Hughes
Ship Type Rank / role Attacked on Boat
Port Victor Motor merchant Able Seaman (DEMS gunner) 1 May 1943 (+) U-107
Son of James and Eleanor Hughes, of Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.
The U-Boat that sunk the Port Victor – U-107 https://uboat.net/boats/u107.htm
1 Dec 1941 – 6 Jun 1943 Kptlt. Harald Gelhaus (Knights Cross)
8 Oct 1940 – 31 Dec 1940 2. Flottille (training)
1 Jan 1941 – 18 Aug 1944 2. Flottille (active service)
Successes 37 ships sunk, total tonnage 207,375 GRT
2 auxiliary warships sunk, total tonnage 10,411 GRT
3 ships damaged, total tonnage 17,392 GRT
1 auxiliary warship damaged, total tonnage 8,246 GRT
Sunk on 18 August 1944 in the Bay of Biscay south-west of St. Nazaire, in position 46.46N, 03.49W, by depth charges from a British Sunderland aircraft (201 Sqn RAF/W). 58 dead (all hands lost).
Attacks on this boat and other events
22 Mar 1943 – 14.35 hrs, Bay of Biscay, inbound: Whitley bomber A for Apple on A/S patrol from RAF OTU Sqdn 10 sighted the boats wake from a distance of 2.5 miles, but had to lose height before carrying out an attack, making a starboard turn to approach from dead astern and dropping six depth charges set for shallow along the track 20 seconds after the U-boat dived. U-107 had already reached a safe depth and escaped without damage. (Sources: ADM 199/1784)
28 Jul 1943
When sailing from Lorient with another boat both boats were attacked by aircraft but fought off the attack without damage. (Sources: Blair, vol 2, page 387.)
4 Jan 1944
19.34 hours, Bay of Biscay: the inbound boat fought off an attack by a four-engined aircraft. No bombs dropped, one crewman slightly wounded by strafing. (Sources: Ritschel)
7 Jan 1944
Between 00.08 and 01.20 hours, inbound in the Bay of Biscay, U-107 was attacked four times by aircraft identified as Liberators, replying each time with AA fire, while nearby, U-621 fired on an aircraft without herself being attacked at 00.10 hours. All bombs fell astern of U-107, causing no damage.
Three aircraft probably attacked U-107 that night: a Canadian Wellington (407 Sqdn RCAF/J, pilot F/O Jordan), a British Halifax (502 Sqdn RAF/F, pilot F/O J.H. Spurgeon) and a second Halifax (53 Sqdn RAF, pilot F/L E.B.A. Le Maistre, RCAF), which was badly damaged by flak hits to the bomb bay and the control surfaces. (Sources: Franks/Zimmerman)
So we now know that James was one of the 12 crew who died that night of the 30th April and the 1st May 1943 and we must make sure he was remembered. Someone from his family put his name forward for the Memorial, so we know he was well loved.
Sadly the Photograph added by: International Wargraves Photography Project on 26 Apr 2006 is so poor James’s name cannot be made out but I am adding it to the photographs so you know that his name is included.