Lieutenant Leslie Hughes


Leslie Hughes was born on 8 August 1892 at 57 Atlantic Avenue, Belfast, the first of four children of silk merchant James Hughes and his wife Annie Emmeline (nee Cruikshank). Educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, by 1911 he was living with his family at West Division, Carrickfergus, and working as a sailor apprentice.

The Belfast News-Letter of 31 March 1914 reported that:

Leslie Hughes, The Ingles, Greenisland, was fined 10s and 12s 6d costs for having, on 12th inst., driven a motor car in such a manner as to obstruct a tramcar in Great Victoria Street. Mr. T. A. Cairns prosecuted for Mr. Frank Kerr, and Mr. J. Graham defended. It was stated that the defendant drove the motor car recklessly out of a garage and scraped the front portion of a tramcar. Mr. Graham said defendant denied driving recklessly. It would be more correct to say the tramcar ran into the motor.

Hughes enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 21 April 1915 (No.1493). He gave his occupation as "independent". He embarked for France with a reinforcement draft on 22 September 1915, where he was posted to D Squadron, joining it in the field at Behencourt.

On 28 February 1916 Hughes applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for the Royal Irish Rifles. In supporting the application his commanding officer Major Hamilton-Russell wrote:

This candidate has a very fair knowledge of French & has assisted the squadron as interpreter on many occasions.

On 22 September 1916 Hughes returned to the UK for officer training, reporting for duty after a period of leave to No.5 Officer Cadet Battalion, Trinity College, Cambridge, at the beginning of November. On 1 March 1917 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 19th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Two months later he returned to France, where he joined the 8th (Service) Battalion (East Belfast), Royal Irish Rifles.

Hughes was with the battalion at the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917. He was severely wounded by a machine gun bullet which entered the right side of his chest, penetrating though to the scapula, also receiving a slight shrapnel wound to his elbow. He was admitted to No.2 Casualty Clearing Station, then No.35 General Base Hospital at Calais, before being evacuated to England on 10 June, where he was admitted to No.1 War Hospital at Reading.

The Ballymena Weekly Telegraph reported news of his injury on 23 June:

... before the war he was a fourth officer on the Head Line, Belfast. He joined the North Irish Horse, from which he went to a cadet unit at Cambridge, being eventually gazetted to a commission in the Rifles, and was sent overseas a month ago. He was shot through the right lung, and was hit in the elbow by shrapnel, but a letter received from him to-day states that he is going on well, and that the shrapnel has been removed from his elbow. The War Office notification of the casualty only reached the family to-day, the wrong party having been originally advised.

On 12 July Hughes was transferred to the UVF Hospital at Belfast and on 1 August to the UVF Hospital at Gilford, County Down. Later that year he was sent to the Ballykinlar Command Depot, though still unfit for any duty.

Hughes recovered very slowly through 1917 and 1918. On 8 June 1918 he wrote to the War Office seeking a pension, as he had been unfit for duty for over 12 months "and my right arm is still practically useless." A medical board on 22 November 1918 found "there is some limitation of movement of the right shoulder above the horizontal, and some loss of power of the grip of the right hand."

A medical board on 1 March 1919 found him permanently unfit for Class A service, but fit for Class B & C1, and that he should "return to his duties with Agricultural Battalion".

Hughes had been promoted to lieutenant on 1 September 1918 (an automatic step). He was demobilised on 12 April 1919 and relinquished his commission on 1 September 1921.

On 9 November 1920 Hughes joined the Auxiliary Division, Royal Irish Constabulary (No.999), and was posted to the Depot Company. In January 1921 he was promoted to section leader and two months later posted to F Company. He was discharged on the Division's demobilisation on 17 January 1922. (See the website The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary.)

Hughes emigrated to Canada with his wfe and son in 1928. They returned to the UK four years later, living at Bishop's Hall, Taunton, Somerset.