Monday, April 26, 2010

The family of Hubert Carl Cahill Hughan.

What little I know about Hubert Cahill Hughan is quite impersonal, taken solely from various indexes and certificates.
I imagine that he lived from birth with the Hughans..he was born in their home at 9 Vincent Street Balmain on February 19, 1900, and his single mother, Lillian Cahill, married later the same year. There is no evidence that I can find that Hubert ever lived with his biological mother.
In about 1906-07, Oscar Hughan, his wife Frances and whomever of their children still lived at home, moved to a new home in Wentworth Falls, in the Blue Mountains region of NSW. Hubert's schooling would have been conducted in the Blue Mountains, and after his education was completed he took up employment as a telephonist.
Aged only 14 when World War 1 started, Hubert was too young to initially enlist. His father, Oscar Hughan, died in November of 1915, and in March of 1917, his mother Frances Hughan helped Hubert enlist in the A.I.F by giving her signed permission, and going along with the incorrect date of birth that was given. Hubert was still only 17 years and 2 months old when he enlisted on March 19, 1917, but he gave his age as 18 years and one month.
He was accepted, and embarked with his unit,the 13th Battalion, 25th Reinforcement, for overseas duty from Sydney on May 10, 1917, on board HMAT A74 Marathon. Hubert was only a smallish boy...five feet three inches in height, with blue eyes, fair hair and complexion.
Hubert saw active service in France after his arrival in England. By January 1918 he was sent to France as part of a reinforcement for the 34th battalion. In February he was with the Australian Infantry Base Depot in France.
The AIF had the AIBD (Australian Infantry Base depot) which was at a number of areas during the war but mostly at Estaples in France. Soldiers would be posted from the UK after training to this unit where they were held until they could be allocated to a unit (mostly Infantry Battalions) .This depot also held soldiers returning from wounds or sickness until they could be sent to their units.Base depots also provided training, especially in the latest tactics, and ensured that each soldier was properly equipped, including that his gasmask was functional.
On March 5th, Hubert was transferred from the 34th Battalion AIF to the 1st Australian General Hospital. On March 22, he went from the 1st AGH to the ACCS(Australian Casualty Clearing Station)
Hubert Hughan found himself attached to the 1st Australian Clearing Station in France. I've done some reading on what went on at these clearing stations, and it really was the stuff of nightmares, especially for a 17 year old boy. For example, the following excerpt comes from the recollections of a Doctor who was stationed at one of these Clearing stations in France:
I was appointed early in July as a surgeon to a casualty clearing station at Crouay, near Amiens.A greater contrast to a Base hospital could hardly be imagined. All military discipline, red tape, and formality were reduced to a minimum. Within the camp, officers donned flannels or shorts, and the mess, a dozen altogether, formed a family party; there were a small number of highly trained sisters, and forty or fifty orderlies.

The essential parts of a C.C.S. were: (1) A large reception marquee. (2) A resuscitation tent, where severely shocked or apparently dying cases were warmed up in heated beds, or transfused before operation. (3) A pre-operation tent, where stretcher cases were prepared for operation. (4) A large operating tent with complete equipment for six tables. (5) An evacuation tent, where the cases were sent after operation, to await the hospital train for the Base. (6) Award tent for cases requiring watching for twenty-four hours, or too bad for evacuation.

On that evening the attack began, with a continuous roar of heavy guns, while the horizon was brilliantly lit with the flashes of exploding dumps, Verey lights, and star shells. The camp was quietly resting, and I was left with a few orderlies in the dimly lit reception tent.

About 1 a.m. the ambulances began to arrive. It is impossible to convey an adequate picture of the scene. Into the tent are borne on stretchers, or come wearily stumbling, figures in khaki, wrapped in blankets or coats, bandaged or splinted. All of them stiff with mud, or caked with blood and dust, and salt sweat, and with labels of their injuries attached.

They come in such numbers that the tent is soon filled, and what can be done? I can't cope with them all! Many are white and cold, and lie still and make no response, and those who do are laconic, or point to their label. I have had no instructions how to dispose of such numbers, or the method of procedure, but realize that they must be examined briefly and sorted, and sent to one or other of our hospital tents.

But my non-com. orderly was at my side with whispered suggestions, and soon we had the stretchers on one side and the standing cases on the other, and, leaving the slighter cases to be dressed, I gradually sorted out the bad ones for the "resuss," "pre-op," or "evacuation" tents.

It was extraordinary that in this charnel tent of pain and misery there was silence, and no outward expression of moans or groans or complaints. The badly shocked had passed beyond it; others appeared numbed, or too tired to complain, or so exhausted that they slept as they stood.

"Resuss" was a dreadful place. Here were sent the shocked and collapsed and dying cases, not able to stand as yet an operation, but which might be possible after the warming-up under cradles in heated beds or transfusion of blood. The effect of transfusion was in some cases miraculous. I have seen men already like corpses, blanched and collapsed, pulseless and with just perceptible breathing, within two hours of transfusion sitting up in bed smoking, and exchanging jokes before they went to the operating table.

The orderly in the "Resuss" was a wonderful lad. A boy of twenty, he had served without relief for months in this tent, attending to the worst cases and the dying. He had all the patience, tenderness, and devotion of a woman, the gentle hands and skill of a nurse, and an enduring fortitude.

He was recommended for the D.S.M., but his best reward must be the memory of many a farewell message home, many a silent grasp of hand, and the last look of grateful eyes.
It seemed hardly real at the time. It is fast becoming a dream, and, though I had many other experiences, as our C.C.S. followed the advance, at Albert and Brie and Peronne, Roiselle, and Bellenglise, none remain in my memory like those of my first "blooding" at Cronay and Amiens, where I came so near to collapse and disaster." - John A. Hayward. M.D., F.R.C.S. 1914-1915. Assistant-Surgeon (rank. Captain) British Red Cross Hospital, Netley. 1915-1917, Medical Officer, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Roehampton. April to November 1918, Temporary Captain R.A.M.C., B.E.F.
I imagine that Hubert Hughan was one of the orderlies mentioned in the account by John Hayward, as prior to his enlistment he had no medical training.
On November 11 1918 Hubert himself was admitted to hospital with influenza, but seven days later he was discharged to duty.
Just after March 1918, it was noted in his records that his actual date of birth was 19th February, 1900, and on November 30, 1918, after the war had officially ended, a note was made re. asking for 'R to A (return to Australia), underage.'
Hubert Hughan, still aged only 18, returned to Australia on the ship 'City Of Exeter', sailing from England on January 15, 1919,and arriving in Sydney March 6, 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on March 29, 1919, after two years' service.
Hubert had not been home long before his 72 year old mother, Frances Elizabeth Smith Hughan, died...she passed away from heart disease and dropsy, 4 months duration, on July 7, 1919.The duration of her illness reveals that she fell ill around the same time that her youngest son returned from the War.

At this time of his life, Hubert Hughan was 19 years old. Both adoptive parents had died, as had a brother, Allan, in 1913. His other adoptive siblings were a 47 year old spinster sister, Myrtle Hughan, and two brothers, Oscar, 42, and Wilfred, 36.
His biological mother, Lillian Cahill Shipp, was living in Oxford Street, Paddington, with her husband Henry and Hubert's half-brother,14 year old Stanley.

There is a gap of seven years now, for my next mention of Hubert comes with his marriage to Ethel Grace Burnett in 1926.I have ordered a transcript of this marriage certificate, so when it arrives in two weeks time, I will share what it has to say about Hubert's parentage.

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