Frederic Hughes

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Frederic Godfrey Hughes
Frederic Hughes.jpg
Brigadier General Frederic Hughes on board a transport ship in 1915
Born(1858-01-26)26 January 1858
Windsor, Victoria
Died23 August 1944(1944-08-23) (aged 86)
St Kilda, Victoria
AllegianceColony of Victoria
Service/branchVictorian Military Forces
Citizens Military Force
Years of service1875–1920
RankMajor General
Commands held3rd Light Horse Brigade (1914–15)
7th Light Horse Brigade (1912–14)
4th Light Horse Brigade (1907–12)
11th Australian Light Horse Regiment (1903–07)
Victorian Nordenfeldt Battery (1888–89)
Rupertswood Battery (1889–97)
Battles/warsFirst World War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration
Mentioned in Despatches (2)
Eva Hughes
(m. 1885; died 1940)
RelationsEllen Kent Hughes (niece)
Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes (nephew)

Major General Frederic Godfrey Hughes, CB, VD (26 January 1858 – 23 August 1944) was an Australian Army general in the First World War. A prominent businessman, and two time mayor of St Kilda, Hughes was also part-time Militia officer, and had served in the artillery forces of the Victorian colonial forces prior to federation. Post federation, Hughes had risen to command several light horse brigades before volunteering for service with the Australian Imperial Force in October 1914. Appointed to command the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, he subsequently led the formation to Egypt and then Gallipoli. During the Battle of the Nek his brigade suffered heavy casualties and he was later evacuated from the peninsula in September 1915, suffering with typhoid. He continued to suffer ill health, but returned to active service mid-1918, undertaking a staff role until 1920 when he retired as a major general. Post war, he returned to civilian business and died in St Kilda at the age of 86.

Early life and career[edit]

Frederic Godfrey Hughes was born on 26 January 1858 in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor, the son of a grazier, Charles Hughes and his wife Ellen. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar School.[1] As a youth, Hughes was a talented player of Australian rules football; he was also an accomplished athlete and rower, according to biographer Judy Smart. He played for St Kilda for three seasons beginning in 1876, and then transferred to Essendon in 1879. The Footballer magazine described him as "a most useful man, plays very hard and with remarkable judgment, follows splendidly, a fine kick, and unerring mark".[2]

After leaving school, Hughes undertook clerical work, and was employed by a land valuer until he started his own business in this field in 1884. In 1898, he became a St Kilda City Councillor, serving for years including two periods as mayor (1901 to 1902 and 1911 to 1912).[1] During this time, he held directorships with several companies, including Dunlop Rubber and South Broken Hill.[1][3]

Military career[edit]

In 1875, Hughes joined the part-time military forces – the Militia – being assigned as a gunner to the St Kilda Artillery Battery.[1] After eight years, he had reached the rank of sergeant, before being commissioned as an officer in 1885. He assumed command of the Victorian Nordenfeldt Battery in mid-1888 with the rank of captain, and continued in the role after it became part of the Victorian Horse Artillery the following year, commanding the Rupertswood Battery.[1] He received his majority in 1891 and then served in the field artillery from 1897 until undertaking a staff role in Melbourne after. In 1901, he was achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel, and assumed command of the 11th Light Horse Regiment in 1903.[1][3] He was promoted to colonel in 1906, and placed in command of the 4th Light Horse Brigade.[3] In 1909, Hughes took up an appointment the Governor-General's aide de camp.[1] In 1912, the 4th Light Horse Brigade was re-designated as the 7th Light Horse Brigade.[3]

First World War[edit]

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Hughes volunteered for overseas service and was appointed Australian Imperial Force as a colonel on 17 October 1914.[3] At this time, he assumed command of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade; he was assigned Lieutenant Colonel John Antill, a regular officer, as his brigade major.[4] Hughes came to depend heavily upon Antill,[3] although the latter was described as "well respected, if prickly".[4]

Hughes' brigade departed for Egypt in February and March 1915 where it continued training. In May, the light horse formations were dispatched to Gallipoli as reinforcements, serving in a dismounted role. The brigade arrived at Anzac Cove on 20 May 1915,[3] and was assigned as corps troops to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.[5] There were concerns about Hughes' age,[4] and the corps commander, Lieutenant General William Birdwood, had "grave doubts about Hughes' capacity".[3] Initially, Hughes held the rank of full colonel, but in July was promoted to brigadier general as all Australian brigade commanders were regraded to achieve parity with the British Army.[6]

Hughes' brigade undertook defensive duties initially, holding an area around Walker's Ridge and Russell's Top.[3][7] In an effort to break the deadlock they were committed to the August Offensive. Major General Alexander Godley, in command of the offensive, ordered Hughes to launch a dawn attack the Turkish positions at the Nek on 7 August 1915 with a bayonet charge as a diversion to support the attack on Chunuk Bair. From the outset the effort went awry. Efforts to destroy the machine guns enfilading the attack failed, and the supporting artillery barrage stopped seven minutes early due to a failure to synchronise watches, which allowed the defenders were able to reoccupy their firing positions before the attack. In the desperate battle that followed, four waves of light horsemen charged the Turkish trenches, only to be cut down by unsuppressed fire from at least 30 machine guns.[8][9]

According to military historian Ross Mallett, "Hughes mismanaged the battle" and while the wider issues that led to its failure were not of his making, his decisions ultimately exacerbated the heavy casualties his brigade suffered.[3] During the battle, Hughes "left his headquarters around the time the second wave of 150 had attacked in order to try to observe the attack, thereby isolating himself from Antill and the rest of his headquarters".[3] Antill subsequently refused a request from the commander of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Brazier, to cancel the third wave, which was also decimated. Part of the fourth wave also went over the top, before Brazier and some officers from the 8th Light Horse Regiment reached Hughes in time to call off any further waves.[9] Out of around 500 men committed to the attack, more than half became casualties, with 234 being killed and 138 wounded.[10] Most of those that were killed, died within only a few metres of the Australian trench line.[8]

In the aftermath of the attack, Hughes' brigade took part in another attack, this time around Hill 60 in late August.[11] After this, the brigade's regiments returned to defensive duties.[12] Hughes' health subsequently deteriorated and on 20 September he was evacuated, suffering from typhoid.[3] Command of the brigade then passed to Antill.[7] In March 1916, Hughes embarked for Australia, due to ongoing health issues. Nevertheless, he was able to rejoin the AIF with the rank of brigadier general in July 1918,[1] taking up an appointment with the Sea Transport Service.[3] He retired in March 1920 with the rank of major general.[1]


Hughes returned to civilian business in his later years. In retirement he focused on gardening. He died in St Kilda on 23 August 1944 at age 86. His wife, Eva, predeceased him; having married in 1885, the couple had four children.[1] A funeral service was held at All Saints Church, St Kilda, and he was buried with military honours. His decorations included a Companion of the Order of the Bath and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration.[13] He was also mentioned in despatches.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Smart, Judy (1983). Hughes, Frederic Godfrey (1858–1944). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Volume 9. Melbourne University Press. pp. 387–388.
  2. ^ "The same old Essendon". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mallett, Ross. "Frederic Godfrey Hughes". General Officers of the First AIF. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Bou, Jean (2010). Light Horse: A History of Australia's Mounted Arm. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-52119-708-3.
  5. ^ Travers, Tim (2002). Gallipoli 1915. Charleston, South Carolina: Tempus. pp. 272–273. ISBN 0-7524-2551-X.
  6. ^ Mallett, Ross. "General Officers of the First AIF". Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  7. ^ a b Bou, Jean (2010). Light Horse: A History of Australia's Mounted Arm. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University Press. pp. 146–147. ISBN 978-0-52119-708-3.
  8. ^ a b Coulthard-Clark, Chris (1998). The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles (1st ed.). Sydney, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. p. 109. ISBN 1-86448-611-2.
  9. ^ a b Perry, Roland (2009). The Australian Light Horse. Sydney: Hachette Australia. pp. 104–111. ISBN 978-0-7336- 2272-4.
  10. ^ Bean, Charles (1941). The Story of ANZAC from May 4, 1915, to the Evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918. II (11th ed.). Sydney, New South Wales: Angus and Robertson. p. 623. OCLC 220898941.
  11. ^ Coulthard-Clark, Chris (1998). The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles (1st ed.). Sydney, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. p. 111. ISBN 1-86448-611-2.
  12. ^ "8th Light Horse Regiment". First World War, 1914–1918 units. Australian War Memorial. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
  13. ^ Jones, Faithe. "Hughes, Frederick Godfrey". Virtual War Memorial. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  14. ^ "Honours and Awards: Frederick Godfrey Hughes". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  15. ^ "Major General F.G. Hughes Dead". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842–1954). 24 August 1944. p. 3. Retrieved 24 August 2019 – via Trove.