b. 12/09/1979 Munster, Germany.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 16/08/2009 Sangin, Afghanistan.
Kim Spencer Hughes GC was born in Munster, Germany on 12th September 1979. He was the middle of three children and the son of an Army serviceman (Barry Hughes) who was a staff sergeant in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). His mother was Frances Trask. As a boy, Hughes was brought up in Weston Super Mare, Somerset, and, later, Telford, Shropshire. He attended William Reynolds Junior School and Thomas Telford School for his secondary education, both in the Shropshire town. He left school at 16 to join the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) but was initially unsettled in the Army and left after a year. However, he quickly realised that after a year of manual work, that the Army was the place to be, and rejoined aged 18.
He became a Private working as a RLC driver for three years, before training to be a driver with a bomb disposal team. However, he then successfully applied to become an ammunition technician, training for three years and being promoted to lance corporal. He then served three tours of Northern Ireland, two in Bosnia, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
Hughes went to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in April 2009 as a staff sergeant working as a high-threat improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD) operator. He took part in Operation Panther’s Claw and worked closely with the Danish Battle Group. By August, Hughes was working alongside the Royal Engineers’ Search Team (REST) and was tasked with providing close support to 2 Rifles Battle Group to clear a route south west of Sangin.
As part of the preparations on 16th August 2009, elements of A Company deployed to secure an emergency helicopter landing site and to isolate compounds along the route to the southwest of Sangin. While conducting these preliminary moves, the point section initiated a victim-operated IED, resulting in a very serious casualty. During the casualty recovery, the stretcher bearers initiated a second device, which resulted in two more fatalities and 4 others seriously wounded. one of whom died later from his injuries. The area was effectively a IED minefield, over-watched by the enemy, and the section was now stranded within it. Hughes and his men were called into the chaotic situation to extract the casualties and recover the bodies. Speed was essential if further loss of life was to be avoided. Wtthout specialist protective clothing in order to save time, Hughes set about clearing a path to the wounded men, providing constant reassurance that help was on its way. On reaching the first injured man he discovered a further IED within a metre of the casualty; given their proximity, it constituted a grave and immediate threat to all the casualties and himself. Without knowing the location of the power source, but acutely aware of the danger he was facing and the overriding need to get medical aid to the casualties rapidly. He carefully neutralised the device, and then turned his attention to the other wounded men and retrieving the dead. He discovered two more IEDs and again neutralised both. He later had to neutralise 4 more devices.
His George Cross was announced on 18th March 2010, alongside the posthumous award for Staff Sergeant “Oz” Schmid. He received his GC from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in June 2010. Hughes has a son, Jack from an earlier relationship, and returned to duty following his GC, training high threat IEDD operators. He is now holds the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 and is serving within 11 EOD Regiment, RLC. He is very active with military charities and is a patron for “Tickets for Troops”. In 2018, he published his autobiography entitled "Painting the Sand". His medals are on loan to the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ON LOAN TO LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
Kim Hughes' medals including his George Cross on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum (December 2014).