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australian rowers profiles and history

Harold B D Hughes

Barwon Rowing Club (VIC)

An only son, Harold Bickley Drewe Hughes was born in Footscray and was an eighteen year old clerk with the London Bank in Geelong in 1914. He had not attended either Geelong Grammar School or Geelong College but had been privately tutored.

He had seen previous service as a Lieutenant in the 69th Company of the Citizen Military Forces. He joined Barwon Rowing Club in 1914.

Harold was in London on the day the Great War started; travelling as a Lieutenant with a troop of Mounted Cadets on a privately funded world tour. They arrived in England on the day before war was declared.

Within a fortnight of their arrival all the cadets had volunteered and were accepted for service. Questions regarding the intentions of the company were asked in the English Parliament in September 1914: Mr. Hugh Barrie asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the services of the members of the Australian cadet company now visiting this country have been offered to the Government, and have they been accepted? Mr. Harcourt replied that Captain Rushall, the officer in charge of the contingent of Australian Mounted Cadets at present in this country, has offered his services and those of the contingent to His Majesty's Government for the remaining period of their stay in England. This generous offer has been communicated to the War Office, and I am at present in communication with the Department with a view to the employment of this efficient body upon some useful and congenial duty.

Howard enlisted as a private in the 28th London Regiment and was then attached to the Public Schools Special Corps, assisting for two months in the instruction of recruits and acting as Adjutant to the Commanding Officer. Due to his fine work and the good opinion of his Colonel he received his next appointment, taking up a commission with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 3rd Battalion. His former Commanding Officer wrote the following recommendation: Lieutenant H.B.D. Hughes has proved himself most efficient in every branch of the service, and I can thoroughly recommend him in every way. He is most reliable, painstaking, and indefatigable worker. I shall be very surprised if I do not hear of his speedy promotion in the service, and I shall watch his career with the greatest interest.

He was later detached to the Highland Light Infantry as acting Captain and went with them to France in February 1915.

Harold was killed on 16 May 1915 in France at the Battle of Festubert. His Commanding Officer wrote to his mother: I cannot tell you how grieved I am, as is the whole battalion, at your poor son's death. He was hit by shrapnel in the head, and his death was instantaneous. We all had the greatest regard for him. He was energetic, capable and a most gallant fellow. The men were very fond of him and would have followed him anywhere.

Harold's body was never recovered.

Harold Bickley Drewe Hughes is commemorated at Le Touret Memorial, France.

Karen O'Connor 2015

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