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Pat's grave, on 7 Sept 2010, the 70th anniversary of his death in action over East Sussex

Flight Lieutenant
Paterson Clarence Hughes
DFC RAAF

born: 19 September 1917 killed in action: 7 September 1940
photo: courtesy of Malcolm Booth, Pat's nephew in NSW

Pat is now also remembered on the Aircrew Remembrance Society website,
where there are some more photos courtesy of the Australian archives.

A brief Biography
of the Australian Fighter Pilot
killed during the Battle of Britain,
and buried in Sutton churchyard in 1940
Sutton War Memorial

Sutton on Hull churchyard - with the grave of Flight Lieutenant Pat Hughes DFC


Pat's father, also called Paterson Clarence Hughes and a schoolteacher in Cooma, was married to Caroline Vennel of Cooma.

Pat Hughes, the youngest in their family of five boys and seven girls, was born in Cooma on 19th September 1917, and was educated at the Cooma Public School. When he was 12 years old, the family moved to Haberfield in Sydney and he attended the Petersham Boys' School, and later Fort Street High, until the age of 17 years. He was a keen sportsman, excelling at football and swimming, with an interest in model aircraft and the wonders of electricity.

In 1935, while awaiting replies he had submitted to both the Air Force and the Navy, he worked for a period at Saunders' Jewelers in Sydney. After being selected for both services he chose the Air Force and began his training as a Cadet Pilot at RAAF Point Cook in Victoria. The smiling photo below was taken whilst he was a cadet at Point Cook. After graduation, he was selected with a number of others to transfer to the RAF under a special Short Service Commission Scheme. They sailed for England on 9 January 1937. After two years training as a fighter pilot he was a member of 64 Squadron, RAF at Church Fenton when hostilities began in 1939.

photo credit:
the RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria, Australia.

Pat was promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant in November 1939 as a Flight Commander to the newly formed 234 Squadron at RAF Leconfield in East Yorkshire. Initially, they were equipped with Fairey Battles, Bristol Blenheims and Gloster Gauntlets, but in March 1940 they were re-equipped with Spitfires. In June 1940, 234 squadron was transferred to Cornwall. It was here, on 1 August 1940, that Pat married Kathleen (Kay) Brodrick of Hull, whom he had met at the Beverley Arms Hotel in Beverley in the February.

The Battle of Britain began in July 1940, and Pat was credited with the first confirmed kill for the squadron with the shooting down of a Ju 88 near Lands End. One of the duties of 234 Squadron was to provide air cover for 10 Squadron (RAAF) based at Mount Batten. In August, 234 Squadron was transferred to Middle Wallop in Hampshire. During the next two months with the Battle of Britain at its height, Pat was the driving force behind the achievements of 234 Squadron. His close-in and aggressive tactics were responsible for many of 234's successes.

In one of the most costly engagements of the Battle of Britain, on August 15th, Pat scored a double with two Messerschmitt 110's. He scored double successes again, on 18th and 26th August, for which he was awarded his DFC. Another couple of weeks of highly intensive aerial warfare followed, with several sorties a day and no rest or days off for most pilots, takes Pat's story up to the end of the first week in September.

September the 7th was a major turning point in the whole battle, effectively the day when the Luftwaffe gave up attacking airfields and the RAF in particular, and made their first huge, daylight raid on London. Hindsight and history would also show that this was the day when the RAF could be said to have won the battle, and therefore staved off immediate invasion. But that didn't become clear for a few more weeks. And tragically, Pat, as with all his fellow pilots killed in those weeks of battle, was never to know it at all.

It was in the late afternoon of the 7th September, when 234 Squadron ran into a force of 60 German aircraft consisting of Do 17's and escorting Bf 109's. Pat was leading his Section in Spitfire X4009 and dived to attack the bombers. The official report states that after attacking a bomber from close range, a large section of the bomber broke away and appeared to hit the Spitfire, which crashed in the village of Bessels Green. Pat's body, thrown clear of his aircraft, came down into a garden in the nearby village of Sundridge. The official record shows that Pat died around 18.30 hrs. Pats wife, Kay, was a widow after only five weeks of marriage.

However, we now know that the action was also witnessed from the ground, and Tony Hall, of Sundridge, writes to tell me that his own father always maintained that, as he watched the aerial combat and ensuing dogfights taking place right over his house, it was his belief that Pat deliberately rammed the Dornier in order to bring it down. Tony has had a lifelong interest in the Battle of Britain, and of course, thence in Pat Hughes in particular. His father's wish that a memorial to Pat may one day be located in the village where he fell has come to fruition, courtesy of the Battle of Britain Memorial Society. This was unveiled on the 65th anniversary of Pat's death in 2005. Pat's former colleague, Wing Commander Bob Doe, now aged 86 and in poor health himself, remembers Pat with affection, was unable to attend the ceremony. Bob mentions Pat and his exploits in the acclaimed book, "Fighter Pilot", which Bob wrote after the war.

Pat was credited with 14 downed enemy aircraft, plus other shared planes, making him the highest scoring Non-British Fighter Pilot in the Battle of Britain. One fact that came to light, a great deal later, was that Pat is also credited with shooting down a very well-known German airman indeed, none other than Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, the famous "One That Got Away".

This was the German Luftwaffe prisoner who escaped from British POW camps several times, only to be recaptured every time. After an escapade in which he very nearly nicked a Spitfire to fly home in, and along with other notorious German escapees, von Werra was shipped off to Canada - our version of Colditz, I suppose - and finally made his successful escape from a moving train at night into the snow and thence to cross the frozen St Lawrence River in a stolen rowing boat to freedom in the US . . just a few months before America came into the war. He was repatriated to Germany to continue his flying career, only to lose his life in Russia on the Eastern Front.

After a service at St James', Sutton-in-Holderness, Hull, on 13th September 1940, Pat Hughes was buried with full military honours in the churchyard. His grave was tended for many years, up to the mid-1990's, by Mr Bert Knowles on behalf of the Sub-Branch of the Spitfire Society. Since around 1995, Marjory Shirtliff and her husband Norman have performed this task, keeping the grass tidy, laying flowers and occasionally washing down the marble headstone. It is also noteworthy that the stone itself, in common practice with all war graves, doesn't mention Pat's Australian nationality, just that he was a pilot with the RAF, which is partly true, as he was on secondment to the RAF. Pat was noted within the squadron for defiantly keeping and wearing his darker-blue RAAF uniform .. a proud Australian indeed, and no doubt he would have returned to the RAAF had he survived the war. Marjory was in regular contact with Connie, Pat's sister in New South Wales, until Connie herself passed away in July of 2010, aged 95.

At Christ's Church, Kiama, on the south coast of NSW, a memorial tablet placed on the churchyard fence by another of Pat's sisters, Muriel Tongue, reads:
"This panel is dedicated to the memory of F/Lt P C Hughes DFC killed in action Battle of Britain 7 September, 1940. Aged 23."

A special memorial, this time depicting his aircraft and the area of his major operations, was unveiled and dedicated at Monaghan Hayes Place, Cooma, the town of Pat's birth, on 26th March 1998, in the presence of members of the Spitfire Association.



We hope that this page of details will be of interest to anyone who has ever visited Sutton churchyard, and paused to wonder how a 23 year-old Australian came to be buried here. A few more photos of Pat's grave, and the general churchyard, are below.

We are indebted to the following for the above details:

Reference: "A Few of the Few" by Denis Newton,
published by the Australian War Memorial.

Stan Howard . . Chairman of the Memorials Sub-committee of the Cooma-Monaro Sub-Branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia.

Bronwen Hughes . . for doing the research and finding and supplying me with all the above details, and in so doing, found that her family is indeed related to Pat Hughes' branch of the Hughes family after all. Her act of kindness (see below) is what helped to find much of the above information in the first place. Of course, at the time I first contacted Bronwen, I had no idea that Marjorie and Norman were tending the grave and had been already in touch with Pat's sister for many years. It is indeed a small world now.


THERE'S A QUITE A STORY . .
of how we in Sutton came to find more details of Pat and his family

I originally wrote to Bronwen, having found her name and email address in an Internet Directory. She was on a list of people on a website called "Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness" where volunteer helpers offer help and research in Family History matters. It seemed too good to be true.

But Bronwen lived quite some miles away down the coast away from Haberfield, and Kiama, and at first any link between herself and Pat seemed remote and clutching at straws. For she then knew nothing of any link herself.

Nevertheless, touched and impressed by Pat's story, Bronwen put a free advert in the Sydney Telegraph, and was inundated with replies, from both people that knew the family and of Pat's RAF service, and from the family itself. It just goes to show the power of the internet. And the nice twist to the tale is that initial research seems to show that Bronwen IS related to this fighter ace after all. This is her reply to me when she first received the details back from Stan Howard.


Dear Rob,
I have had a marvellous result in my quest for information on Paterson Clarence Hughes. His deeds are well known to his family and the Spitfire Society here. Apparently 4 years ago they held a special service for "our boy". I have attached an email I received today. I'm sure you will find it of interest. (shown above).

It was over three weeks ago I placed the application to have a notice in the Sydney newspaper, it was only printed in last Wednesday's edition (22 May 2002), my phone has not stopped, I have been inundated with calls from family members and people who have heard of our brave young fighter pilot. I have passed on the information obtained from the website. "Pat" was also a descendant of one of the first fleet convicts sent to Australia.

Many thanks for your original email, it started a search that has been most rewarding, and it now looks like our family is related to Paterson's line.

I have forwarded your original email onto a family member and I am sure he will be in touch with you.

Regards Bronwen Hughes


Update:
And indeed, I can report that we are now in regular contact with Pat's nephew, Malcolm Booth, whose late mother was one of Pat's sisters. We have had quite a bit of correspondence, and as can be imagined, the delight of the family in seeing that Pat is still in such peaceful surroundings is good to feel, even at this great distance. These following 7 full-sized pictures are for them . . click on any picture to see a larger version, and it will open in a new window. Close each window as you move onto the next, or you'll run out of memory on some machines (as I do on this steam-driven 486 ! ). These thumbnails are about 1/3rd size.

Sutton on Hull churchyard - with the grave of Flight Lieutenant Pat Hughes DFC Sutton on Hull churchyard - with the grave of Flight Lieutenant Pat Hughes DFC

Sutton on Hull churchyard Sutton on Hull churchyard

Sutton on Hull churchyard Sutton on Hull churchyard

Sutton on Hull churchyard - looking towards the NW wall and the Church Hall . . click for a larger and clearer image of Pat Hughes' grave inscription.
An evening view, on Sept 15, Battle of Britain Day, across the churchyard, back towards the Church Hall. The back of Pat's grave is the one right in the middle of the photo. Click this view for a larger and clearer image of the inscription, taken Sept 9th 2006.


THE DEANNA DURBIN LINK

Perhaps it's time for a few more photos here .. maybe this one of Marjorie and Norman Shirtliff, taken with Merrill Rhodes, on Pat's Memorial Day, back on Sept 7th, 2006. This is a good indication of how this couple have taken on and cared for this grave over the past 15 or more years. I only recently learnt, in 2010, the story of just how Marjorie and Norman came to be involved. It's all down to the screen actress Deanna Durbin. Marjorie is a great fan, and in the Deanna Durbin Society. She became friends with fellow member, Jean Holmes, in Barton on Humber just over the water. Jean is very involved in looking after war graves generally, and on telling Marjorie about the ones in Sutton, Marjorie and her husband took on the particular task of looking after Pat's, which they have done ever since. Deanna was a popular actress of the war years, and understandably especially popular with the armed forces. It's not beyond credibility that Pat himself could have been rather keen on the lass himself, as would most of his and other squadrons. A wonderful aside to an amazing story. And at the time of writing, Deanna herself is still alive, living in Paris, and will be 90 next year, and would probably be equally amazed that her name and career would become connected all these years later with an Australian RAF pilot. For those that are interested, visit Deanna's website.

Use your 'BACKSPACE' key when done, also for the ones below. Marjorie & Norman, along with Merrill Rhodes

They have taken Pat's story to heart, and were regularly in touch with another of Pat's sisters in Australia, until she herself died in 2010 . These little thumbnails open up into bigger views. After we laid the flowers, I went back and took these other shots later in the day.
St James', Sutton on Hull churchyard St James', Sutton on Hull churchyard

St James', Sutton on Hull churchyard St James', Sutton on Hull churchyard St James', Sutton on Hull churchyardNovember 2005
A further update to Pat's story has been the dedication of the Memorial Plaque mentioned above, now affixed to the wall of the bungalow in Kent where Pat's fallen body was found.

The service of dedication was on the 65th anniversary of Pat's death in September, the arrangements being made largely by Tony Hall who still lives in the same bungalow. It was Tony's late father who had witnessed the dogfight between Pat's squadron and the enemy, and who saw the stricken Spitfire come to grief. It had always been his father's wish that this pilot should be remembered in this way, and so with the help of the Battle of Britain Society, 2005 saw his wish granted. So Pat is now remembered both where he fell, and where he is buried.

Tony and Des Hall Click to see the full image
Tony Hall, seen here on the left, along with his brother Des.
Click on the small image to read the plaque on the wall behind them.

In 2008, as the 68th anniversary of Pat's death approached, a memorial stone was built and dedicated, alongside Main Road in Sundridge near to Tony Hall's garden where Pat's body was found, at a special service on August 23rd. This stone is one of a series commissioned by the Shoreham Aircraft Museum commemorating Battle of Britain pilots who died in the immediate area.

Tony Hall wrote to Pat's nephew, Malcolm, enclosing this photo.

Click to see the full image" .. Dear Malcolm, Just got back from the dedication ceremony. A wonderful sunny day for it, after our wettest August ever. A whole crowd of villagers and V.I.P's, including Wing Commander Bob Doe, & The Australian Air Attaché. We had a very smart parade by the Air Cadets and a great flypast by the Spitfire, "The Spirit of Kent". I believe a video was filmed, as is usual at these dedications; I will see you get one. The Shoreham Aircraft Museum did a grand job of organising the event. More to follow in Post eventually.
Regards, Tony Hall .. "

F/Lt Paterson Clarence Hughes DFC .. in the cockpit in 1939

image courtesy of Australian War Memorial P01397.001 and RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria, Australia.
This photo was taken by an unknown photographer in 1939,
just at the start of the war, when Pat was still a Pilot Officer.

This link is to the Shoreham Aircraft Museum showing photos of the dedication of the above stone, as well as of other memorials, and is well worth a visit.
Pat's is the 5th memorial down the list.


Pat was just one of many, the famous 'few', who never lived to see the outcome of the battle whose success, and cost, we commemorate on this day every year. We should, and do, remember all of them. Pat's story is very representative of the many who came from Overseas, from every corner of the Empire, black and white, almost every creed and colour, to help fight for the ideals that Britain held to be worth fighting for. Indeed, even as I write, we still fight for. As a nation, we forget their sacrifice and example at our peril.

I hope we have indeed made it certain that this young man, along with all the others buried beneath war graves in Sutton churchyard, will never be forgotten.

And finally, we are indebted firstly to Mr Bert Knowles of Sutton, and latterly Marjorie and Norman Shirtliff of Holderness High Road, Hull, for their continuing service of tending Pat's grave, and laying flowers for him, for so many years. I know they'll be pleased there is now a couple of photos of Pat on this page.

RLH. 28 Aug 2009
updated with new smiling 1939 photo of Pat in the cockpit,
in time for anniversary on 7 September 2009


Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
is how I came to find Bronwen and her good help.
This page is worth a look. They are a worthy cause, and need volunteers all over the world.

Battle of Britain Historical Society
.. have a touching webpage devoted to Pat, with a short story in verse
telling of his life and untimely death.


Kristen Alexander Books, of Mawson in New South Wales
is an author who has written several books on aviation matters pertaining to Australia.
In particular, her book "Australia's Few and the Battle of Britain", published in 2015 in a UK edition by Pen & Sword, contains details of Pat Hughes' service in both the RAAF and the RAF, as well as the seven other Australian pilots who served in the Battle of Britian. Details of how to purchase are on her site, and a picture of the book cover is on our Publications Page

An Australian Forces Memorial Site
that lists more details about Pat, and also,
about 5 photos of him, one in a Hurricane fighter.
When the page loads, click on the
COLLECTIONS SEARCH
and type in Pat's full name thus :
PATERSON CLARENCE HUGHES

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