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Hughes, John Thomas

Thomas (Tom) John Hughes was born on 14th November, 1894 at Bryn y Garreg, Flint Mountain, and was the eldest of three children to Alderman Edward Arthur Hughes and Mary Catherine (Williams).

Living with his family at Bryn y Garreg House, Flint Mountain, Tom was educated at Flint Mountain, Flint Council, and Mold County Schools.

He was employed as a draughtsman with the Flintshire County Council in the County Surveyor’s Department, and was previously in the Cost Department of Messrs J Summers and Sons Hawarden Bridge Works Offices.

He was a single man when he enlisted in the army at Flint, circa August 1914, with the Royal Army Medical Corp (RAMC), No. 77404. He was transferred to the London Regiment in May, 1916 and landed at Le Havre, France on 24th June, 1916.

Private Hughes was killed in action on 29th July, 1916 in the Neuville, St Vaast area of Vimy Ridge, France, and was buried in the Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont St Eloi, France (Plot II, Row B, Grave 26) along with 31 comrades of his regiment.

He is commemorated on the Flint Town War memorial (as John Thomas Hughes) as well as on the North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, Bangor. He is also remembered on his parents’ headstone in the Northop Road Cemetery (Grave 8, Line 3, South Side), and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

He joined the RAMC with several of his friends, who remained together, being removed from one encampment or depot to another: but eventually they were transferred to one of the London regiments. With that Battalion, they learned the infantry duties proper. They were only there a comparatively brief period before being drafted to France, and from thence to the trenches, where, after a short time Private Hughes was a victim of the enemy. There were reports that since the men became involved in trench work Private Hughes always exhibited a most cheerful disposition, and together with his bonhomie and kindliness of demeanour, all of which were youthfulcharacteristic traits in him when at home, he was literally ‘the life and soul’ of those near him.

It was reported that Tom was well respected at his places of employment before his enlistment, and his death was lamented likewise by his former co-workers.

With his parents, he was associated with the Welsh Wesleyan Methodist Causes at Flint Mountain and Peniel (Flint), and the whole of the members of the congregations of these places of worship, as well as members of other immediate branches of the denomination, offered their sympathies to Mr and Mrs Hughes and members of their family.

The following two letters, which are respectively from the Reverend J E Reilly, Wesleyan Chaplain of the Division, and Private John Tegid Williams, son of Mr and Mrs John Williams, Riverslea, Flint, speak volumes, and are eloquent tributes to the deceased and his heroic attempted rescuer:

July 31, 1916.
DEAR MR HUGHES,

I suppose you have had word from the War Office regarding your son. You are called on like many more parents to pay the great price and offer of your best at this time. I was called on to conduct the last rites for your boy yesterday. He was badly wounded on Friday and passed away on Saturday whilst being brought down to the dressing station. All was done for him that could be done. It may be some comfort to you to know that we have the exact place marked and there will be a neat wooden cross, with name and date on it, erected within a few days, and later on you will be acquainted with the exact locality. We got the body brought back to a proper Cemetery, which will be kept in order by the Government after we leave the country.

Your son is all right; he died trying to stem back the torrent of cruelty and wrong that might have spread over the world. No man can die a nobler death. It is well with him today, but you are called on to bear the loss and to go through the world without seeing him again. I pray that the God of all Comfort will strengthen and console you in the loss you are called on to bear.

I try to get into touch with all these boys, but as I am the only Wesleyan Chaplain for the whole Division, it is impossible to know them all. Probably his Company Officer will give you more information. I was in another part at the time, and gleaned a little about him from others.

I am, Yours sincerely,

J. E. REILLY, C.F

DEAR MR AND MRS HUGHES,

I really don’t know how to begin this letter, as it is the saddest day in my life. Poor Tom has been killed on Saturday morning, July 29th at 5 a.m. by a sniper. As far as I can gather, his death was practically instantaneous, and he was shot, I think, somewhere in the groin or stomach. Poor Tom, he did not suffer much agony, thank God. The rest of the Flint boys, except Jack Edwards, were in another part of the line when this terrible event occurred. Jack was a good distance away, too, when it happened, but a great chum of ours, Ernie Crellin, and he was a great chum of Tom’s, too, leapt over the parapet immediately to try and rescue him, but alas! Poor Tom was gone. Tom was fixing a barbed wire in front of the trench with another man whom I don’t know, when he got hit. Ernie and this man brought him in. The thing that grieves us Flint boys is that we were nowhere near him, and did not ever see him after his death. Oh, if only I could have tried to save him! Ernie risked his life to try and save him, but nothing could be done absolutely, as he died in a few seconds.

I was out on a similar job to Tom on the night but one previous to this, and another man next to me was shot almost in the same place as Tom, i.e., in the thigh or thereabouts, and three of us dragged him in, but he died of wounds the following morning. We boys are absolutely stunned by the blow. We have lost a brother, and more than a comrade, who was one of the bravest and cheeriest soldiers in the Battalion. The Colonel said he had lost one of his best men, and so he had. It is awful really. I shall go and seek his grave when I get out of the trenches.

All that could be done to save poor Tom was done. I could not believe it when Idwal told me of it, about a couple of hours after; I could not really at all. So sudden it seemed, and without a parting word. Oh, my God, how cruel! May his soul rest in peace.

I wish to convey the deepest sympathy of all the Flint boys, and also the man who attempted to save him, in your sad bereavement.

Yours very sincerely,

Tegid

Note: Ernest Crellin was killed on 22nd March, 1918 and is buried in Jerusalem.

Writing to his father and mother, who received the letter on Saturday afternoon, Private John Tegid Williams says: “Poor Tom! He was a soldier and a man. May his soul rest in peace. It is a terrible blow to us, and will be to his family, I know. But, when you know the history of his death and of the attempt to save his life you will consider it one of the bravest deeds in this war. Give my deepest sympathy to his father and mother. He was a lad to be proud of; and we deeply mourn his loss.”

Note: Tegid Williams survived the war with the 2/19th, though was wounded in Palestine in the Spring of 1918.

Mr and Mrs Hughes received a number of letters of condolence; and it is believed another letter from one of the Flint youths was received bearing kindly references to the late Private Hughes

His commanding officer also wrote a letter of condolence:

B.E.F., France,
4th August, 1916

DEAR MR AND MRS HUGHES,

I expect that you have already received the sad news of your son’s death, and as the officer who witnessed his death, and as a friend of Tom, I am writing to you personally to give you the circumstances leading up to it.

On Friday last the Germans blew up a mine just in front of our line, and, as is usual on these occasions, we worked all night to consolidate the crater. Your son worked at the top of the crater all night, and by his courage and bravery in the face of many dangers set a magnificent example to the rest of the men during that very trying period. Towards morning a volunteer was called for to put up wire entanglements, and your son immediately volunteered. It was whilst doing this work that he was shot by a sniper – death being instantaneous. We all, both officers and men, deplored his loss. He was a splendid type of British manhood, and his unfailing cheerfulness and bravery in many dangers was most marked.

I know your grief is great, and words seem hard to find with which to express one’s sorrow; but this I do feel – that your grief will be mingled with pride in that he died so nobly for England.

I brought down 12 men from the trenches yesterday – men who have spent a very strenuous time on that crater and are down for 3 days rest, and we all went this afternoon to see Tom’s grave in the British Cemetery here. He is buried side by side with the other brave lads who have given their lives for England.

Doubtless the other Flint boys have written concerning the arrival of parcels, etc., and I am returning letters which have recently arrived. The Flint boys are much esteemed in our Battalion, and especially the D company, to which they all belong – fine lads.

If there is any further information I can give you, do please write to me.

With profound sympathy,
Yours sincerely,

CHAS. F. ASHDOWN,
2nd Lieut.

Further communications were received from the Front concerning the death of Private Hughes and all conveyed additional testimony to the excellent soldierly qualities he possessed. The letters were couched in the most touching terms. Private Hughes was undoubtedly exceedingly popular amongst all his comrades, and his courage and bravery, combined with his self-sacrifice in strict attention to duty, have earned for him the undying fame that he died the noblest of deaths after performing a duty of great danger.

The following letter was from the Captain of his Company, of one of the London Regiments:

DEAR SIR,

Please allow me to offer you my very sincere sympathy in the loss you have suffered in the death of your son. In the couple of months he had been with us I had come to know him not only as a good soldier, but as a fine fellow as well. You may well be proud of your son’s end, for he died very gallantly, performing a duty of great danger, and it was satisfactorily completed before he was shot through the body. It will, I hope, be some consolation to you and Mrs Hughes to feel that his life was not given in vain, but that the task we were engaged upon was brought to a successful end. He only lived a few seconds after being hit, and it was one of his own pals, I think, who brought him back to the trench. If it is allowed, I will let you know particulars of his place of burial, and his personal effects and correspondence shall be returned to you. In conclusion, let me assure you again of my sympathy with you both, and my personal sorrow at the loss of a gallant comrade.

Believe me to be,

Yours sincerely,

F. W. EAMES, Capt.

Alderman Edward Arthur Hughes, who was born in Ffynnongroyw, died at his home at Bryn y Garreg House on 1st December, 1918, aged 51, after a long and painful illness. His obituary, as reported in the County Herald, makes interesting reading and is as follows:

“He had been in failing health for the greater part of a year, but with characteristic grit and perseverance he stuck to work as long as possible. For the past two or three months, however, he had been compelled to relinquish his various activities, under the advice of his medical attendant, Dr J H Williams. For some time he was a patient at the Royal Infirmary, Liverpool, but he returned home, and, gradually weakening, died as stated, to the great grief of his family, relatives and friends.

Alderman Hughes was the son of the late Mr Thomas Hughes, underground manager of a colliery in the Mostyn district. While he was still a boy, the family came to live in Flint, his father having received an appointment as underground manager at the Red Pits Colliery. Upon completing his education at the Flint Church of England School, young Hughes became an assistant to an ironmonger named Caparoni, who then carried on business in Chester Street. After remaining there for some time, he obtained employment at the Red Pits, under Mr Dawes, who was at that time the manager. He remained there for a number of years, rising to the position of cashier and secretary. Eventually the colliery was closed, and Mr Hughes then took up a position as traveller for a Leeds firm of colliery rope manufacturers, covering the Yorkshire, Lancashire, and North Wales district. After being engaged in this work for two or three years, and on the death of the late John Morgan, succeeded that gentleman as secretary and organising agent of the Flintshire Liberal Association. In that important office he displayed great industry and ability, and was for some years a prominent figure in the Registration Courts in the county. Upon the outbreak of war in 1914, his sphere of activity was transferred to theCounty Recruiting Committee, and in this capacity his services were of great value to the county.

In the Borough of Flint, the late Alderman Hughes was a very familiar figure for the past twenty years. He entered the Town Council in November 1899 as a councillor, and speedily came to the front as a member of that body. His special forte lay in the financial business of the council, and as chairman of the Financial Committee for many years he displayed great skill and resourcefulness in managing the borough’s finances. Two years ago, upon the resignation of Alderman S K Muspratt, he succeeded that gentleman as an alderman of the council. On July 27th last occurred the death of Alderman C E Dyson, the Mayor of Flint, and on August 6th Alderman Hughes was, by the unanimous vote of the council, elected as Mayor in his stead. It was observed at the time, by those who were present at the Council meeting, that his physical powers were waning. After his election to the Mayoralty he was only able to make one of two more appearances in that capacity, and his last was on Remembrance Day, when he gave an address from the balcony of the Oddfellows’ Hall.

Alderman Hughes had filled a number of public positions apart from his connection with the Town Council. He was secretary of the Flint Liberal Club for some time, secretary of the Flintshire Branch of the Welsh Heroes’ Association, and chairman of the Borough Food Committee. He was at one time a keen cricketer, and president of the Flint Cricket Club, and he also played a first class game of billiards.

Alderman Hughes was well known in religious circles, as a prominent member of the Welsh Wesleyan denomination, and was one of the leaders of the Bethel Chapel at Flint Mountain, as well as a local preacher connected with the Flint Circuit.

The deceased gentleman leaves a widow, one son, and one daughter to mourn his loss. His eldest son, Tom, who was in the army, was killed in action last year, a bereavement which was a great blow to his father. General sympathy will be felt with the family in their grief, while it is recognised Flint has lost one of its most prominent and useful public men.

At the Borough Sessions yesterday (Wednesday) morning, the Mayor referred to the loss which the Borough had sustained in the death of Alderman Hughes, who, he said, was one of the most useful men they had. They as a Bench tendered to Mrs Hughes and family their sincerest sympathy and condolence in her bereavement– Mr. Matheson (deputy-magistrates’ clerk), and Messrs Kerfoot Roberts and Clement Jones (Holywell), on behalf of the solicitors practising in the court, also concurred in the Mayor’s remarks.

The funeral of the late Alderman took place on Wednesday afternoon last week, amid general signs of mourning. At 1:45 the cortege left the deceased gentleman’s residence at Flint Mountain, and proceeded to the Welsh Wesleyan Chapel, where a service was held, conducted by the Reverend Gwynfryn Jones. The Reverend T G Ellis read a portion of scripture, and the Reverend D Davies led in prayer. The lesson was read by the Reverend H Evans. The Reverend G Jones then gave an eloquent address to the large assembly. He made a very touching reference to the late Alderman Hughes, and remarked how valuable had been his services to the church, and how faithfully they had been rendered. He was followed by the Right Hon J Herbert Lewis, who also gave a very appreciative address. He spoke of Mr Edward Arthur Hughes, as he had known him personally. The late gentleman was one of the best men he (Mr Lewis) ever wished to meet,– always sympathetic, cheerful, and always ready to lend a helping hand to everybody. Many a time he (Mr Lewis) had gone to Mr Hughes depressed and very worried over some matter, and the sympathy and optimistic cheerfulness with which he was greeted, and with which Mr Hughes conversed, made him go away with a load lifted from his mind. He was a sincere friend, and the personal loss he had sustained was irreparable.– The deceased gentleman’s favourite hymn, “Art thou weary, art thou languid?” was touchingly sung, and several other beautiful hymns were also rendered. The cortege then passed down to Flint. It was met half-way by the Mayor and Corporation, who joined in the solemn procession. The funeral procession was a lengthy one, and was joined by parties of sympathisers on the way to the cemetery.

At the next council meeting the Mayor (Councillor Henry Powell) paid the following tribute the late Alderman Hughes: “He was a good and faithful husband and a loving father. Alderman Hughes was a strong personality, and a prominent public man for years. He rose from the ranks, and occupied the highest position the town could offer,–and held the honour with credit to himself and added dignity to the Council. As councillor, alderman and chief magistrate of the ancient borough he attained those high offices by force of character and integrity. He also at different periods was Chairman of the School Attendance Committee, the Fire Brigade, Finance Committee, and Local Food Committee. His motto was “Forward,” and he (the speaker) might add, his characteristics were “enthusiasm and perseverance.” His life was one strenuous day. His was an example worthy of emulation; his life and work were strongly fixed in the moral, social, religious, and political life of the town. Today they mourned his loss as friend, councillor, and townsman. Might his example in overcoming all obstacles be an incentive to others.”

Mrs Hughes was a native of Flint Mountain and died on 23rd May, 1954, aged 80, after a long illness, at 1, Firbank, Caerwys, the home of her son and daughter-in-law, and was buried with her husband.

She was a former Mayoress of Flint and, before leaving for Caerwys in 1940, she was a faithful member of Bethel C M Church, Flint Mountain.


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