John Elias Hughes was the son of John and Elizabeth Hughes, of Plas Eden, Prestatyn. He was born at Prestatyn, and died there on September 8th, 1915.
In the 1891 census for Wales, available on Ancestry, the family are living at 1, Pengwern Avenue, in the Meliden district. Head of the family was John Hughes, 35, who was described as a bookmaker. He had been born in Prestatyn. His wife Elizabeth, 32, had been born at Gwaenysgor, while the children Mary Ellen, age 6, John Elias age 5, Edith age 3, and Elizabeth Jane, who was one year old, had all been born at Prestatyn. They all spoke Welsh.
By 1901, they had moved to Stafford House, Victoria Avenue, Prestatyn. John Hughes is now described as clerk to the Urban Council. Mary Ellen, now 16, was a milliner, while John Elias, 15, was on office boy – surveyor. Edith, 13, and Elizabeth Jane, 11, had been joined by Mabel, age 9, and Adeline, age 3, since the last census. All the family spoke both languages.
In 1911 the family are living at Plas Eden, Eden Avenue, Prestatyn. John Hughes is now described as Clerk and Collector to the Urban Council. Four of the daughters were living at home, including Mabel, now 19 and a typist with the urban council. The house had nine rooms, and the mother Elizabeth had given birth to seven children, of whom six were living, in twenty eight years of marriage.
John Elias is found in the census for England, living alone at 4, Falcon Road, Birkenhead. He is age 25, born at Prestatyn Flintshire, and a civil engineer with Birkenhead Corporation.
Sadly, the next we hear of John Elias are the following reports.
Liverpool Daily Post, 9th September 1915:
Prestatyn Patriot’s Death. The death has occurred on Wednesday morning of Mr John Elias Hughes, 28, son of Mr John Hughes, town clerk of Prestatyn. He joined the army at the outbreak of war, but was taken seriously ill and was discharged. Since then he had been in indifferent health, and collapsed suddenly on Tuesday.
The Cymru, September 10th 1915:
September 3rd at Plas Eden, Prestatyn, John Elias, the beloved husband of Helen Hughes, 6, Parkstone Road, Birkenhead, and only son of John and Elizabeth Hughes, Plas Eden, Prestatyn.
This is the first mention found of John Elias having been married.
The Prestatyn Weekly, September 18th 1915:
Hughes – After a long illness, at Plas Eden, Prestatyn, age 29, John Elias, beloved and only son of John and Elizabeth Hughes. Sadly missed by his parents and sisters.
In the Prestatyn Weekly September 11th 1915 we read the following report:
Following an illness at the camp of the Denbighshire Yeomanry at Wrexham towards the end of last year, the death occurred on Wednesday morning of Mr John Elias Hughes, only son of Mr John Hughes, (town clerk) and of Mrs Hughes, Plas Eden. The deceased was only 29 years of age. He served his articles as a civil engineer at Liverpool, and for six years previous to his illness occupied a position under the Birkenhead Corporation. For Four years he was a member of the Denbighshire Yeomanry. Although not connected to the Yeomanry at the outbreak of war, he rejoined his old troop,and had been with them about three months when he was taken ill. He spent some months at Formby, and arrived home in January last. He was out of doors on Saturday, but was taken with a sudden seizure on Sunday, from which he never recovered. He was married three years ago and leaves a wife and two year old daughter.
As we have seen, John Elias was the only son, having five sisters. As late as March 1918, under the unusual heading “Our Girls”, we see that one of his sisters Mabel Hughes, Plas Eden, is home on leave from France, while serving in the WAAC.
Church records show that John Elias was buried on September 11th, and his parents put an acknowledgement notice in the Prestatyn Weekly thanking friends and neighbours for their messages of sympathy.
There are no surviving military records on Ancestry for our soldier, or on the CWGC website. He would not have been awarded any medals as he did not serve overseas. However, there is a card for him in the Roll of Honour in the Hawarden archives. It was signed by his father, John Hughes, on October 2nd, 1919. We learn that he served for a period of four months as a private in the Denbighshire Hussars. His regimental number was B/870, and the only detail given is that he died through illness.
The Denbighshire Hussars was a unit of the British Army from 1794 until 1921. It saw service in WW1 before being merged into a unit of the Royal Artillery. It trained at Hightown Barracks, Wrexham, and at the onset of the war there were four squadrons, A B C and D. John Elias’ squadron, B, was based in Denbigh, with drill stations at Prestatyn, Rhyl, and Ruthin, and recruited from these towns.
From the website Army Service Numbers 1881-1918, when looking at the numbers for the Denbighshire Yeomanry we see that our soldier, B/870, would have enlisted at Denbigh, and joined between September 1st 1914, and October 12th 1914. After serving just four months we know he must have been discharged in the spring of 1915, and died in September 1915.
John Elias’ father, John Hughes, who as we have seen was the town clerk of Prestatyn, was the person to whom the names of all those serving in the war were to be given and recorded. In fact there were frequent requests in the columns of the Prestatyn Weekly for those names not yet recorded to be given in at the council offices.
The Cymru, in April 1915, carried a long letter from Captain Henry Swetenham, the “supervising recruiting officer”, on its front page, requesting that throughout Flintshire and Denbighshire, the names of all those serving should be given to a named official to be recorded in every town and village.
Flintshire Observer 15th April 1915:
To the Editor,
Sir, May I, through the valuable medium of the Press, inform the public that I wish, if possible to compile a complete register of all officers and men in any naval or military capacity who are serving their king and country from each of the undermentioned parishes, districts and towns. I suggest that the register should show the man’s full Christian and surname, his rank, his home address, the ship or regiment in which he is serving, and also any interesting particulars concerning any particular man, such as whether he has been unfortunately wounded or killed, and if so the locality.
I propose this register is completed, (after the war is over), and that a copy be deposited with each District and Parish Council. I am confident that in years to come it will be a most interesting record of what this part of the country has done.
The letter then proceeds to name the local secretary and agent in their particular parishes and districts, the named official for Prestatyn being John Hughes, council offices.
No-one in April 1915 could have had any possible imagining of how long and distressing these lists were to become.