The danger of getting in too close
Patrick Clarence Hughes was born in Cooma, Australia on 19th September 1917, the youngest of five boys and seven girls. He was a keen sportsman, excelling at football and swimming. As a young man he developed a keen interest in aviation.
He joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1935 and began his flying training at Point Cook in Victoria. After graduation he was selected for a short service commission with the RAF. He travelled to the UK in 1937 and was posted to 2 FTS at Digby for his flying capabilities to be assessed.
Still wearing his RAAF uniform he was then posted to 64 Squadron at Martlesham Heath. When 234 Squadron was reformed at Leconfield on 30th October 1939, Hughes was promoted to acting Flight Lieutenant and sent there as a flight commander. The squadron was posted to St. Eval in June 1940. On 1st August 'Pat', as he was known to all, married Kathleen (Kay) Brodrick of Hull at Bodmin Registry Office. Its believed that he had met Kay at the Beverley Arms Hotel in Beverley when he was briefly stationed at RAF Leconfield.
He was credited with sharing 234’s first victory during the Battle, a Ju88 he shot down near Land's End on 8th July. On the 27th he damaged another and shared in damaging another on the 28th.
In August 1940 the Squadron moved to Middle Wallop. During the next few weeks his tactic of getting in close and getting out quickly ensured that he was always where the fighting was fiercest and his success rate increased quickly. On 15th August Hughes destroyed a Me110 and shared another; destroyed two Me109's on the 16th; two more on the 18th; two more on the 26th; three Me110's on the 4th September; two Me109's on the 5th; and another probable on the 6th.
It was the following day, the 7th, that the squadron intercepted a large daylight raid on London. Pat was leading his section and dived straight towards the 60 Do17s raiders plus their Me109 escorts. Shortly after his initial attach, his Spitfire, X4009, was seen spinning down with part of a wing missing. The aircraft fell in a field at Sundridge, Kent. Pat's body, with his parachute unopened, fell in the back garden of a bungalow 100 yards away. Eyewitness reports differ in their accounts: some record that his Spitfire was in collision with a Do17 that fell at a waterworks in the same area. Some eyewitnesses on the ground were convinced that they saw Pat deliberately ram the Dornier having used up his ammunition; others that he got in so close that his aircraft was hit his debris from the destroyed enemy aircraft.
It was common knowledge on the squadron that Pat's inseparable companion, a terrier called 'Butch', flew with him in action. However Butch was never seen again after that day and it is widely believed that he died with his master.
Hughes was awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd October 1940).He was buried in St.James Churchyard, Sutton, Hull close to his wife's home.
Text and image courtesy of Battle of Britain monument