b. 30/05/1885 Castleblayney, Ireland. d. 08/01/1942 Carrickmacross, County Monaghan.
Thomas Hughes (1885-1942) was born at Coravoo in the parish of Donaghmoyne, five miles from Castleblayney, County Monaghan, Ireland on 10th November 1885. His father, Patrick, was a farmer living with his family at Coravoo. His mother was Alice nee Walshe and they married in c.1882. Thomas had eight siblings.
Thomas was educated at Aughnafarcon National School, Broomfield, Castleblayney. He went to the Curragh, County Kildare to train as a jockey as he was not very tall and lightly built. Later he was a groom for Irish horse trainer, Lawrence Rooney, based at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.
He enlisted on 24th November 1914 at Hednesford and was described as 5ft 6’ tall and a Roman Catholic. He joined 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Kinsale on 1st December and went to France on 2nd May 1915 to join 1st Battalion. For an unknown reason, he returned to the Depot on 27th September and was posted to 3rd (Reserve) Battalion on 14th December. Thomas returned to France to join 6th Battalion on 7th February 1916.
On 3rd September 1916 at Guillemont, France, Private Hughes was wounded in an attack but returned at once to the firing line after having his wounds dressed. Later, seeing a hostile machine-gun, he dashed out in front of his company, shot the gunner and, single-handed, captured the gun. Though again wounded, he brought back three or four prisoners.
He returned to Britain for Home Service on 14th September. The VC was presented by King George V in Hyde Park on 2nd June 1917. He went absent without leave from 28th November – 5th December 1917 and was fined eight days pay. He was discharged no longer fit for war service on 12th February 1918.
On his return to Ireland, he helped run the family farm at Coravoo with his sister Annie, her son Michael, and another man. The people of Castleblayney made a presentation of money to him, with which he purchased the hill farm of Thomas Gilmours at Fincarn, Donaghmoyne, Castleblayney. Thomas became increasingly dependent on drink and in 1924 was fined for being in possession of illegal alcohol.
Thomas never married, but is understood to have had an illegitimate son, Ken, who was born in England. Thomas died at his home at Fincarn on 4th January 1942, and was buried in Taplagh Graveyard, also known as Broomfield Old Cemetery, County Monaghan. In addition to the VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and George VI Coronation Medal 1937. He left the VC to his sister Annie, who sold it to a London dealer for £420 when she got into financial difficulties. Members of the Connaught Rangers Association purchased the VC from the same dealer on 4th December 1959 for £500 and presented it to the Sandhurst Military Museum. The VC later passed to the National Army Museum, Chelsea, where it is currently not on display.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM, CHELSEA, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ST PATRICKS CHURCH, BROOMFIELD, CO MONAGHAN, IRELAND.
Thomas Hughes' medals courtesy of the National Army Museum website
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Nov 2016 - Aidan Kavanagh)