SX27854 Private Ralph Laurence HUGHES
Ralph Laurence HUGHES was born at Laura on 18 June 1922, the fifth child of Frederick Thomas HUGHES and Nellie Laura HUGHES (nee CAMPBELL). He joined the Militia (S56485) on 27 December 1941 while working on the farm for his mother. On 19 February 1942, he was called up for full time duty with the 6th Cavalry Brigade Company, Australian Army Service Corps in Adelaide. This Corps was responsible for military supply and transport. His older brother, Cam (SX4760 Frederick Campbell HUGHES) had enlisted in the 2nd AIF on 2 June 1940 and was serving the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion.
Ralph spent much of March and April 1942 in hospital at Wayville recovering from mumps. Over the next three months he received three weeks leave without pay, allowed to men who could be spared to assist with seasonal farm work. As an experienced dairy hand, he returned to the family farm at Waitpinga.
In June 1942, his unit, now called the 6th Armoured Brigade Company AASC, was sent to Puckapunyal in Victoria; it then later moved to nearby Tallarook. On 27 March 1943, Ralph was transferred to the 2/1st Australian Tank Transporter Company AASC at Singleton, New South Wales. This unit was equipped with truck-drawn special 40-ton capacity trailers for carrying tanks on long hauls, thus saving the tank tracks from wearing. From October to December 1942 Ralph received a further six weeks leave without pay which was spent working on the family farm at Waitpinga. On 21 December 1942, Ralph was officially transferred to the 2nd AIF.
Following his return to Puckapunyal, he was sent to Western Australia to join his unit, which had been transferred there as part of the 1st Australian Armoured Division. Units of this Division were deployed between Perth and Geraldton to defend that part of Western Australia should the Japanese attempt an invasion.
As the Japanese invasion threat diminished, the Division spent more time training. It would never see action and was disbanded in September 1943, although several of its Regiments remained in Western Australia. Other personnel were redeployed to non-armoured units.
On 27 October 1944, Ralph and his unit began the long train journey back to New South Wales. In January 1945, he was transferred to the 2/34th Australian Tank Transporter Platoon in Queensland, where he remained until returning to South Australia in early September 1945. Over the next three months he moved between units at Warradale and Keswick with his medical classification downgraded in December 1945. Between January and April 1946, Ralph spent time to hospital while attached to the 11th Australian Ordnance Vehicle Park. On 23 May 1946, Private Ralph Laurence HUGHES was discharged from the Army.
Post-war, we know little about Ralph post-war, only that he died on 30 March 1995, age 73.
Service file of SX27854 Ralph Laurence HUGHES purchased from the National Archives of Australia (www.naa.gov.au), and made possible by a grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The grant also made possible the scanning of the photographs featured on the Waitpinga Pictorial Honour Roll Boards No 1 and No 2, along with the digital restoration of a number of the images of servicemen and women featured on the Waitpinga Pictorial Honour Roll Board No 3.
Australian War Memorial database (www.awm.gov.au).
Wikipedia – 6th Armoured Brigade (Australia) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6th_Armoured_Brigade_(Australia)
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, February 2013.