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Geoffrey Forrest Hughes
Geoffrey Hughes (right) speaking with Prince Albert during the latter's tour of Australia in 1927.
Born (1895-07-12)July 12, 1895
Died 13 September 1951(1951-09-13) (aged 56)
Place of birth Darling Point, New South Wales
Place of death Lewisham, New South Wales
Buried at Waverley Cemetery
Allegiance  Australia
 United Kingdom
Service/branch Australian Army
Royal Flying Corps
Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service 1914 – 1919
1940 – 1943
Rank Group Captain
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Military Cross
Air Force Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Relations Tom Hughes (son)
Robert Hughes (son)

Geoffrey Forrest Hughes MC, AFC (12 July 1895 – 13 September 1951) was an Australian aviator and flying ace of the First World War. He was credited with 11 aerial victories, and won a Military Cross for his valour. After a postwar award of the Air Force Cross, he returned to Australia and completed university. He became a businessman and a solicitor in the family law firm while retaining his interests in aviation. From 1925 through 1934, he was president of the Royal Australian Aero Club, and largely responsible for government support of the club. Despite his business concerns, he returned to military duty during the Second World War. He commanded an aviation training school and rose to the rank of group captain before surrendering his commission in April 1943. After the war ended, he moved into public life and the political realm.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Geoffrey Forrest Hughes was born in the Sydney suburb of Darling Point, New South Wales, on 12 July 1895.[1] He was the second son of Thomas Hughes, a solicitor and future Lord Major of Sydney, and Louisa (née Gilhooley); he was of Irish descent on both sides.[2] Hughes received his secondary education at Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview, before undertaking a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney from 1914. In June that year, he was commissioned as an officer in the 26th Infantry Regiment, Citizens Military Force. In his youth, Hughes had acquired a keen interest in aviation, which led him to apply for the Australian Flying Corps; his application ultimately proved unsuccessful.[2]

First World War[edit | edit source]

In March 1916, Hughes suspended his studies and travelled to the United Kingdom, where he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant on 3 June. He was posted for flight instruction, and on graduating as a pilot was made a flying officer on 28 July. Later that year, Hughes was posted to No. 10 Squadron RFC in France.[2] Piloting Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 biplanes, the unit carried out co-operation duties with the Allied ground troops over the Western Front.[3] Around the same time Hughes had enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps, his elder brother, Roger Forrest Hughes, was granted a commission in the Australian Army Medical Corps of the Australian Imperial Force. Posted for service on the Western Front, he was mortally wounded by an artillery shell in the morning of 11 December 1916; Geoffrey was with Roger when the latter died of his wounds later that day.[4][5]

On completing his tour with No. 10 Squadron, Hughes returned to the United Kingdom in February 1917. For the following ten months, he was posted for duties at flight training installations and units in England. He was promoted to temporary captain on 29 July.[6] During this time, his letters home to his parents were critical of anti-conscription efforts by Australian Roman Catholics, led by Archbishop Mannix.[2]

In 1918, he returned to France in an assignment to fly a Bristol F.2 Fighter for No. 62 Squadron RFC. On 17 February, he and Hugh Claye were first into combat for the new squadron; four days later, they scored the unit's first victory. The team of Hughes and Claye continued to accrue victories; they became aces in a notable air battle on 13 March 1918. They were leading a formation of 11 Bristol Fighters when they were sucked into a lopsided battle to save a squadronmate. Despite bucking combat odds of about four to one, Hughes and Claye were credited with two of 62 Squadron's six victories that day.[7] Hughes was promoted to captain on 1 April 1918. He was mentioned in despatches twice, and awarded the Military Cross,[2] which was gazetted on 13 May 1918:

"...While leading his formation over the enemy's lines he was attacked by twelve enemy machines, two of which he shot down. On the following day, when in charge of a patrol, he attacked seven enemy triplanes, drove down one out of control, and forced three others to land. On another occasion, while in charge of a patrol, he was attacked by a large number of enemy scouts; owing to his skilful flying his observer succeeded in shooting down one of the enemy machines, which broke up in the air. He always showed the greatest coolness and courage in action, and, as a flight commander, led his formation with splendid courage and determination.[8]

Hughes was again withdrawn to training duties in England.[2]

List of aerial victories[edit | edit source]

See also Aerial victory standards of World War I

Unconfirmed victories denoted "u/c".

No. Date/time Aircraft Foe Result Location Notes
1 21 February 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter German two-seater Destroyed Vicinity of Armentières, France Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
2 10 March 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter Albatros D.V Destroyed Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
3 10 March 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter Albatros D.V Driven down out of control Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
4 11 March 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter Fokker Triplane Driven down out of control Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
u/c 11 March 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter Fokker Triplane Forced to land Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
u/c 11 March 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter Fokker Triplane Forced to land Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
u/c 11 March 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter Fokker Triplane Forced to land Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
5 13 March 1918 @ 1030 hours Bristol F.2b Fighter Pfalz D.III Driven down out of control; pilot hit East of Cambrai, France Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
6 13 March 1918 @ 1030 hours Bristol F.2b Fighter Fokker Triplane Destroyed East of Cambrai, France Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye; victory over Lothar von Richthofen shared with Augustus Orlebar in a Sopwith Camel
7 12 April 1918 @ 1420 hours Bristol F.2b Fighter Albatros D.V Driven down out of control South of Bois du Biez Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
8 12 April 1918 @ 1500 hours Bristol F.2b Fighter LVG two-seater Set afire in midair; destroyed Auchy-les-Mines, France Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
9 22 April 1918 @ 1030 hours Bristol F.2b Fighter Fokker D.VII Driven down out of control Nieppe Forest Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
10 22 April 1918 @ 1030 hours Bristol F.2b Fighter Fokker D.VII Driven down out of control Nieppe Forest Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye
11 10 May 1918 @ 1835 hours Bristol F.2b Fighter Rumpler two-seater Driven down out of control Between Combles and Péronne, France Observer/gunner: Hugh Claye[9]

Between the World Wars[edit | edit source]

Hughes remained in England for some time following war's end, training recruits.[2] On 3 June 1919, his award of the Air Force Cross was gazetted.[10]

After discharge from military duty, Hughes completed his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1920.[2] He married Margaret Sealy Vidal, an Anglican and the daughter of an English cleric, at Saint Canice's Church, Darlinghurst on 8 January 1923.[11] Hughes went on to receive a Bachelor of Laws degree with Second Class honours on 17 May 1923.[12] He became a solicitor and joined the family legal firm.[2] His son, Robert (1938–2012), was an influential art critic.[13]

Geoffrey Hughes maintained his interest in aviation, becoming president of the Royal Aero Club of New South Wales from 1925 through to 1934. He was instrumental in gaining government support for the club, on grounds that it would supply pilots for military as well as civil use.[2] He was one of three members of a Committee of Inquiry into the forced landing of the Kookaburra during a long distance flight on 29 March 1929. The committee's report, issued on 25 June 1929, besides exploring causes of the accident, also contained recommendations for better radio communications and sufficient onboard emergency rations for crew survival in future mishaps.[14] On 5 September 1936, it was reported by The Sydney Morning Herald that Hughes became a director of the United Insurance Co Limited.[15]

World War II and beyond[edit | edit source]

In July 1940, Hughes returned to military service, being appointed as a flying officer in the Royal Australian Air Force.[2] On 13 August 1940, he was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the board of directors of Commercial Banking Company of Sydney.[16] Ranked as a temporary wing commander in 1941, he commanded the flying school at Narrandera. By the time he gave up his commission in April 1943 to end his military career, he had risen to acting group captain.[2]

Business and public career[edit | edit source]

Hughes became a prominent businessman, with connections to companies in which his father had an interest. The younger Hughes became a director of United Insurance Company, Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, and Australia Hotel Company Ltd, as well as chairman of Tooheys Ltd and Tooheys Standard Securities Ltd.[2] He was chairman of directors for Toohey's Brewery, as well as senior partner in the family law firm of Hughes, Hughes, and Garvin.[17] His business interests led him into political life as an opponent of the bank nationalisation polices of postwar Prime Minister Ben Chifley. Hughes refused to serve on the board of Qantas Empire Airways Ltd.[2] Elsewhere in the sphere of public life, he became a council member of Sancta Sophia College. He became a member of the socially prominent Australian Club, as well as the Royal Sydney Golf Club.[2]

Death[edit | edit source]

Geoffrey Forrest Hughes died of lung cancer and pneumonia in Lewisham Hospital on 13 September 1951, at age 56. His wife, daughter, and three sons survived him. He was buried in the Catholic section of Waverley Cemetery.[2]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Garrisson 1999, p. 91
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 Spearritt, Peter (1983). "Hughes, Geoffrey Forrest (1895–1951)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A090393b.htm. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  3. "No. 10 Squadron". Bomber Command. Royal Air Force. http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/h10.html. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  4. "Roger Forrest Hughes". The AIF Project. Australian Defence Force Academy. http://www.aif.adfa.edu.au:8080/showPerson?pid=146225. Retrieved 2010. 
  5. "Captain Roger Forrest Hughes (P08188.001)". Collections search. Australian War Memorial. http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/P08188.001. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  6. "RAF officers' service records 1918–1919—Image details" (fee usually required to view pdf of full original service record). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/details-result.asp?Edoc_Id=8230863&queryType=1&resultcount=2. Retrieved 2010. 
  7. Bristol F.2 Fighter Aces, p. 59.
  8. Supplement to the London Gazette, 13 May 1918, pp. 5696, 5700.
  9. Above the Trenches, p. 204.
  10. Supplement to the London Gazette, 3 June 1919, pp. 7032, 7033.
  11. The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 January 1923, p. 5.
  12. The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 1923, p. 5.
  13. The Australian, Roads to Rome by Peter Craven on 2 July 2011.
  14. The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania), 25 June 1929, p. 7.
  15. The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 1936, p. 19.
  16. The Courier-Mail (Brisbane Queensland), 2 August 1940, p. 4.
  17. The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 1951, p. 5.

References[edit | edit source]

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