Paterson Clarence Hughes

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Paterson Clarence Hughes
Paterson Clarence Hughes 1940.jpg
Paterson Clarence Hughes in 1940
Nickname(s) Pat Hughes
Born 19 September 1917
Cooma, New South Wales, Australia
Died 7 September 1940 (aged 22)
Sundridge, Kent, England
Allegiance Australia Australia
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Australian Air Force (1936–37)
Royal Air Force (1937–40)
Rank Flight Lieutenant
Service number 39461 (RAF)

World War II

Awards Distinguished Flying Cross

Flight Lieutenant Paterson Clarence (Pat) Hughes DFC (19 September 1917 – 7 September 1940) was an Australian fighter pilot who distinguished himself and was killed in action during the Battle of Britain. Hughes was initially a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) officer, who transferred to the British Royal Air Force prior to World War II.

The top-scoring Australian flying ace of the Battle of Britain and one of 24 Australians who lost their lives during the battle,[1] Hughes has been described as the "real driving force behind No. 234 Squadron RAF."[2]


Hughes was the son of Caroline Hughes (née Vennel) and Paterson Clarence Hughes (senior), a school teacher. Pat was the youngest child of a family of five boys and seven girls, born in Cooma, New South Wales, on 19 September 1917.

Hughes was educated at Cooma Public School and after the family moved to the Sydney suburb of Haberfield when he was 12, he attended the Petersham Boys' School, then Fort Street High School until aged 17.


Hughes wanted a career in the military, and applied for both the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. While undergoing the application process and awaiting the outcomes, Hughes worked at Saunders' Jewellers in Sydney. He was accepted by both services, and joined the RAAF as a cadet in August 1936. Hughes trained at RAAF Point Cook, near Melbourne. An accomplished photographer, he took many photographs of base life during this period.

Hughes was trained to fly in de Havilland Gipsy Moths, Avro Cadets, and then onto Westland Wapitis, Hawker Demons as well as with Supermarine Seagull V.[3]

After graduation, he applied and was selected with a number of others to transfer to the Royal Air Force under the Short Service Commission scheme, sailing for England on 9 January 1937.


A proud Australian, Hughes continued to wear the darker blue uniform of the RAAF, albeit with RAF insignia. After two years training as a fighter pilot he was a member of No. 64 Squadron RAF at RAF Church Fenton when World War II began in September 1939.

On 6 November, Hughes was promoted to acting Flight Lieutenant within the newly formed No. 234 Squadron at RAF Leconfield alongside Bob Doe. 234 Sqn had originally been equipped on formation with Fairey Battles, Bristol Blenheims and Gloster Gauntlets, but retrained in March 1940 with Supermarine Spitfires.

In the local town of Beverley in February 1940 Hughes met his future wife Kathleen Agnes (Kay) Brodrick of Kingston upon Hull in the Beverley Arms Hotel.

After helping to set up No.247 Squadron at Roborough, Plymouth he rejoined 234 Sqn when it was transferred to RAF St Eval in Cornwall in June 1940,[4] and on 1 August Hughes married Kay Brodrick in the local register office.

Battle of Britain[edit]

The Battle of Britain began in July 1940, and Hughes was credited with the first confirmed kill for the squadron with the shooting down of a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 near Lands End on 8 July, and a kill shared with another pilot on 28 July.[5]

The duties of 234 Sqn included air defence duties over RAF Mount Batten, near Plymouth, the home of an Australian flying boat unit, No. 10 Squadron RAAF,[6] which flew long distance maritime patrol missions. As a result, in August 234 Sqn transferred to RAF Middle Wallop in Hampshire.

During August, Hughes began using an aggressive and dangerous tactic deployed by many other aces: getting close to enemy aircraft before firing, to ensure victory, a tactic which contributed to his death.

Hughes claimed a double victory, two Messerschmitt Me 110s, on 15 August 1940, on which the Luftwaffe mounted the largest number of sorties of the campaign and known later as "The Greatest Day" (or, by the Luftwaffe, as Schwarzer Donnerstag ["Black Thursday"].)

He achieved further double victories on 18 and 26 August, making him a fighter ace, and resulting in the award of a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Hughes claimed further double victories on 4, 5 and 6 September, bringing his official tally to 13 (12 and two half) victories.

In early evening of 7 September, 234 Sqn ran into a force of 60 German aircraft consisting of Dornier Do 17s and escorting Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Hughes was leading his Section in Spitfire X4009 and dived to attack the bombers. The official RAF report states that after Hughes attacked a Photoreconnaissance aircraft of stab KG76, Do 17 (2596) F1+BA, which could have previously been attacked by Spitfires of No. 609 Squadron, Pilot Officer E.W. Aries, and Flight Officer G.C.B. Peters of No79 Squadron, a large section of the bomber broke away and appeared to hit Hughes' Spitfire. There is anecdotal evidence that Hughes deliberately rammed the bomber (see note below). But Hughes was also known for his aggressive tactics and pressing attacks to close range and he may have accidentally collided with his intended target as it went out of control. The Do 17 went on to crash a mile away in a stream at Sundridge, taking with it Leutnant Gottfried Schneider, Oberfw K. Schneider, and Uffz W. Rupprecht. Crew member Feldwebel Rosche being the only crew member to bail out. When the wreck of the Do 17 Hughes collided with was excavated 40 years later, a .303 inch British round, still in the belt link and unfired, was found wedged in the Do 17's engine cowl fastener. Conclusive proof that there was a significant collision and Hughes was not out of ammunition. It has also been reported that when the crash site of Hughes' Spitfire was excavated in 1969 by the Halstead War Museum, from fifteen feet of clay, it contained fragments of 303 bullets in the cockpit and in the seat. This discovery should put down other reports that Hughes was shot down by an ME 109 or was the victim of friendly fire. There are also reports from eyewitnesses to the collision and of a Spitfire spiraling down with part of a wing missing (Tony Hall's father was an eye witness). This also adds to the possibility that Hughes may not have bailed out but was forcibly thrown out of his Spitfire and had been rendered unconscious, incapacitated or dead from the force of the collision. For .303 ammunition to be found in the fastener of the Dornier's engine cowl and in the cockpit of the Spitfire, is proof of a very significant impact, which seriously dislodged the Spitfires ammunition. In any event, Hughes' body was found in the back garden of the house Tony Hall still lives in, on Main Road in the nearby village of Sundridge, Kent. The official record shows that Hughes died around 18.30 hrs. His Spitfire crashed soon afterwards at Darks Farm, near Bessels Green, Kent, During the same action, Hughes' commanding officer, Squadron Leader Joseph "Spike" O'Brien, was also shot down and killed.

Honours and awards[edit]

  • 22 October 1940 - Acting Flight Lieutenant Paterson Clarence Hughes (39461) (since killed) has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:

This officer has led his flight with skill and determination. He has displayed gallantry in his attacks on the enemy and has destroyed seven aircraft.

— London Gazette[7]

Later events and memorials[edit]

A war widow after only five weeks of marriage, Kay Hughes decided to have her husband buried at her local parish church. After a service at St James', Sutton-on-Hull, on 13 September 1940, Hughes was buried with full military honors in the churchyard.[8]

Hughes is also commemorated at:

  • the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, where his service medals are held;[2]
  • Christ's Church, Kiama, New South Wales, with a memorial tablet placed by his sister;[9]
  • the house in Kent where his body was found, by a wall plaque and;[10]
  • Monaghan Hayes Place, Cooma, by a memorial depicting both his aircraft and a map of his major sorties over England.[11]

Combat record[edit]

Date Service Flying Kills Probables Notes
8 July 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1/3 * Junkers Ju 88 flying from RAF St Eval
28 July 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1/3 * Junkers Ju 88 from II./LG1
15 August 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1.5 * Messerschmitt Me 110 flying from RAF Middle Wallop
16 August 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 2 * Bf 109E
18 August 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 2 * Bf 109E
26 August 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 2 * Bf 109E
4 September 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 3 * Bf 110
5 September 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 2 * Bf 109E
1/2 * Messerschmitt Bf 109
1/2 claim was posthumous acknowledgement in shooting down of ObLt Franz von Werra, JG 3
6 September 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 * Messerschmitt Bf 109[12] 1* Bf 109E
7 September 1940 Royal Air Force Spitfire 1 * Dornier Do 17 KiA over Kent, when piece of KG 76 bomber hits his aeroplane. Body found Sundridge, Kent after parachute fails to open
TOTALS 14 + 3 shared kills[13] 1 probable


  • Ness, William N., 1966, The Allied Aces Of World War II Arco Publishing Co., Inc., New York.


  1. ^ Battle of Britain Australian War memorial
  2. ^ a b Distinguished Flying Cross : Flight Lieutenant P C Hughes, 234 Squadron RAF AWM Collection Record: REL/17986.001
  3. ^ Pat Hughes - Remembering a Battle of Britain pilot sixty five years on
  4. ^ LAC Clarke No 901301 BBC Peoples War
  5. ^ 25–31 July 1940
  6. ^ Barnes and James, Short Aircraft Since 1900, p.338
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34976. p. 6134. 22 October 1940. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  8. ^ Hughes' marble headstone indicates that he was a serving pilot in the RAF, but does not show his nationality. The grave was formerly tended by the local sub-branch of the Spitfire Society, and later by a local couple.Pat Hughes bio and much information about where he rests
  9. ^ "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."
  10. ^ On the 65th anniversary of Hughes' death, Desmond and Tony Hall, whose father watched Hughes' last dogfight, unveiled the plaque. The brothers stated that their father was adamant that Hughes deliberately rammed the Dornier, in order to bring it down. With the assistance of The Battle of Britain Historical Society and in a service attended by 70 people, the local vicar Reverend David Attwood gave a prayer and reading. Followed by The Last Post, a minutes silence was ended by the playing of Reveille, which resulted in the unveiling of the plaque, and the laying of a wreath. After a flypast by a Percival Proctor from a local flying club, a reception was held at Shoreham Aircraft Museum.
  11. ^ The memorial was unveiled and dedicated on 26 March 1998, in the presence of members of the Spitfire Association.
  12. ^ Air war Europe 1939-1945: Fighter Command
  13. ^ Shores/Williams; "Aces High", page 343

External links[edit]