b. 01/09/1926 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 23/03/1946 Hong Kong
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 21/03/1946 Lyemun, Hong Kong.
Joseph “Joe” Hughes (1925-1946) was born on 1st September 1926 in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of John (known as Jack) and Sarah (known as Sadie) Hughes (nee Wogan), who had married in 1919. Jack worked at the docks as a carter. Joe had three siblings, two brothers James and Frank, and a sister Sarah. Sarah later married William Goad, who was awarded the Albert Medal in World War II, and later exchanged for a George Cross.
Joe attended St John’s School in Portugal Street in the Gorbals district of Glasgow. He was a keen amateur footballer, and was liked to sing with his friends on the streets of the Gorbals. Joe was too young to enlist at the start of World War II, but enlisted towards the end of the conflict in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was posted to Hong Kong and was based at Lyemun Barracks. He had the service number T/14858103 and held the rank of Driver.
On 21st March 1946, at Lyemun Barracks, he was driving a 3-ton vehicle carrying ammunition and explosives into the magazine area. The truck started to smoulder and then caught fire. Knowing full well that his truck was likely to blow up at any moment, Hughes, instead of running for cover, did everything in his power to put out the fire. Notwithstanding small explosions occurring in his vehicle, he first tried to remove the burning camouflage net, and then tried a fire extinguisher, which failed to put out the fire. A few minutes later his lorry blew up, fatally wounding him. He died two days later. Joe was laid to rest in the Hong Kong Cemetery. His self sacrifice was recognised when on 26th June 1947, the London Gazette published the announcement of a posthumous George Cross. The medal was presented by King George VI to his family on 2nd December 1947 at Buckingham Palace.
His George Cross and War Medal 1939-45 came up for sale at Glendinning’s Auction House on 16th March 1965. It was the first George Cross ever to come up for auction sale. The medals are in private ownership, but replicas of his medals are held at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: GOVERNMENT CEMETERY, HONG KONG.
SECTION 16D, GRAVE 10265.
Copies of Joseph Hughes' medals held at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, Camberley, Surrey (Picture - Thomas Stewart).
The renovated Joseph Hughes GC Memorial near the spot of his action
(VC and GC Association)