Hughes, Sergeant Henry Francis (559)

No 69 (Australian) Sqn RFC

Henry Hughes came from Prahan, Victoria, where he was born in 1890, and was a Civil Servant when he joined No 2 Sqn AFC in Melbourne on 21 August 1916. He departed from Melbourne on HMAT A38 Ulysses on 28 October. On arrival in the UK he was posted to No 69 (Australian) Sqn and, after observer training, he was promoted to Sergeant on 1 August 1917. After a short period at RAF Farnborough, he joined his squadron on the Western Front on 10 December.

He was killed in action near Hazebrouck on 17 December 1917 while flying in RE 8 A3816, flown by Lt J L M Sandy, who was also killed. The RE 8 was attacked at about 1300 by six enemy aircraft, including Albatros D.Va D.5390/17, flown by Ltn Clauss of Jasta 29 [an airman whose first name appears lost to history]. Both Australian airmen were killed by the same bullet during the fight, but A3816 continued to fly in large left hand circles until its fuel was exhausted, when it eventually crashed in a field 5 km north east of St Pol – some 80 km from the scene of the fight - at around 15.00, with all parts of aeroplane except the top left wing being wrecked. The wreckage wasn’t found for some 20 hours. Vizefeldwebel Eugen Weiss of Jasta 29 was credited with a victory over the RE 8; it was his second, and final, victory, and was achieved only ten minutes after his first, a Nieuport near Armentières (not reflected in British or French records). Ltn Clauss was wounded in the thigh by Sandy and Hughes before their deaths, and the same bullet apparently punctured the fuel tank of his Albatros, forcing him to land in territory held by the 21st Battalion AIF; the pilot was taken Prisoner of War and his aeroplane was allocated the captured aircraft serial G.101. It is now preserved in the Australian War Memorial’s collection.

Sgt H F Hughes is buried in Grave H 10 at St Pol Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

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