Major Thomas William Gillilan Johnson Hughes


Thomas Hughes of Dalchoolin, Craigavad, County Down,  was born in Belfast on 30 March 1889, the only son of wealthy landowner Edwin Hughes J.P., and his wife Emma Sophia (nee Rhodes). He was educated at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.

On 22 June 1910 Hughes was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the North Irish Horse. When war was declared he joined A Squadron of the North Irish Horse, which embarked for France on 17 August 1914. The squadron saw action on the Retreat from Mons and Advance to the Aisne. Two accounts from the time mention Hughes:

I shall never forget the day we had the bayonet charge with the Inniskillings. My troop, under Lieutenant Hughes, took up a position on the railway line. The enemy was about 500 yards away, when suddenly their artillery opened fire and we had to retire in the open under a heavy shell fire. I shall never forget the sound of the bursting of their ‘Jack Johnsons’, as the Highlanders call them. When we took up another position with the Gordons and Inniskillings we made our rifles tell on the advancing German infantry. It was horrible to see the heaps of dead and dying, both men and horses.
(Private William Morton in The Belfast News-Letter, 29 December 1914)

[At] night they were pegging down their horses in garden, preparatory to retiring for the night’s rest in some hay lofts, when suddenly bullets whistled overhead. Lord Cole, who was in command, shouted to Lieutenant Hughes: ‘Get your men out, Hughes.’ The men readily responded, and fixed bayonets. They advanced through a field of vegetables in the direction from which the sound of firing came, and then heard the cheers of the 2nd Inniskillings and Cameron Highlanders as they charged the enemy. Lord Cole ordered the charge, and the North Irish Horsemen answered with cheers, and rushed forward along with the infantry. The Germans did not wait, but took to their heels. The Horse then retired that night a further ten miles, escorted by the two foot battalions, and thus gained a short respite from the pursuing Germans. (Private James McArow in The Belfast News-Letter,  6 November 1914)

Hughes was promoted to lieutenant on 1 September 1914 and captain on 18 November the following year.

In May 1916 A Squadron joined with E and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment. In February 1918 the regiment was dismounted and converted to a corps cyclist regiment. Hughes remained with A Squadron throughout. He was mentioned in Field-Marshal Haig's despatch 9 April 1917.

From 15 January to 1 February 1918 he acted as lieutenant-colonel in command of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, following the departure of Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Cole.

After the war, Hughes remained an officer of the North Irish Horse. When he relinquished his commission on 30 March 1934, having reached the age limit for officers, he was granted the honorary rank of Major.

He died on 18 April 1963.


Major Hughes, second from left, Belfast News-Letter 12 November 1938


The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 5 April 1934


Letter sent by Hughes to his uniform supplier in Dublin, 5 November 1914.


Hughes may also be in these pictures - here, here and here.


Postcard images sourced from an online auction site.