Lieutenant Colonel William (Phil) Phillipps Hughes

William Phillipps Hughes, the son of William David and Lucy Hughes, was born in Auckland on 7 November 1920. He was educated at Howick, then Auckland Grammar where he was very well known for his sporting achievements. On leaving school William began training as a school teacher but this was interrupted by WW2. On 1 January 1940 William was
attested into the Royal New Zealand Air Force, his service record noting that he was signing up for the ‘duration of hostilities’ and that he wanted to be considered for pilot training with the Fleet Air Arm.[i]

Training with the RNZAF continued till February 1942 when Second Class Naval Airman William Phillipps Hughes was transferred to the navy.[ii] Following basic Naval training at HMS Philomel, Auckland, Naval Airman Hughes was shipped overseas to the United Kingdom. He continued his training at shore-based stations in England. The Fleet Air Arm training was supplemented by detachment to flight training in Florida, USA and it was in the America that Naval Airman Hughes
was promoted to Acting Sub-Lieutenant (A) Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNZNVR) on 21 June 1943.[iii]
The temporary rank was given for the duration of the war and the (A) indicated that it was for flying.

On return from Florida, Sub-Lieutenant Hughes was stationed at HMS Silkins a shore-based airfield where he continued fighter training and provided Forward Fighter Defense (FFD) for the airfield and surrounding area. On 1 June 1944 Sub-Lieutenant  Hughes was then posted, with Squadron 852, to HMS Nabob.

HMS Nabob 

The HMS Nabob (D77) was commissioned as an anti-submarine carrier and her ship crew was mainly drawn from personnel provided by the Royal Canadian Navy, with flight crew supplied by the 852 and 856 Naval Air Squadrons of
the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). The detachment from 856 FAA Squadron was equipped with Avenger MkII (torpedo bomber),
while the 852 FAA Squadron was equipped with Wildcat Mk V (fighter),[iv]
one of these fighters flown by Sub-Lieutenant Hughes.


New Zealander, school teacher Sub-Lieutenant (A) William John  Kurney
also served on HMS Nabob.[v]

In August 1944 HMS Nabob was part of Operation Goodwood in an aircraft carrier group providing cover for ‘Russian’ convoy JW-59 and launching air attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz. While HMS Nabob was returning from
Operation Goodwood she was hit by a torpedo fired by U354 and was badly damaged. HMS Nabob struggled back to Scarpa Flow, Scotland but was considered too badly damaged to repair and decommissioned.  On September 1 1944
Sub Lieut Hughes was reassigned to HMS Sparrowhawk, a shore-based airfield close to Scarpa Flow and then, on
14 October 1944, to HMS Trumpeter (D09).

HMS Trumpeter was a escort carrier and was supported the ongoing ‘Russian’ convoys with operations against U-Boat targets in Barring Sea.[vi] HMS Trumpeter was assigned for a refit in June 1945, then redeployed to the Far East. Acting Lieutenant Hughes was transferred to the shore station HMS Heron with 795 Naval Air Squadron (NAS). The 795 NAS was equipped with Corsair fighters and Lieutenant Hughes was appointed as an Instructor in Advanced Flying Training.[vii]  
On 27 October 1945, while Lieutenant Hughes was stationed at HMS Heron in  Somerset, he married Jean Constance Mary Wenham. Jean served in the Woman’s Royal Naval Service (Wrens) being stationed in the Orkney Islands prior to RNAS Yoevilton / HMS Heron.

Married life in England was short, Lieutenant Hughes was transferred to the Far East and on 15 November 1945 was
based at Cook II, a shore-based establishment in Tulagi, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu).[viii] While at Tulagi
he was promoted from Acting to Temporary Lieutenant and remained at Tulagi until April 1946 when he then returned
to HMS Cook, the shore establishment Shelley Bay, Wellington before returning to HMS Philomel. On 26 July 1946 Temporary Lieutenant William Phillipps Hughes RNVNVR (A) was decommission and returned to civilian life.
For his service Temporary Lieutenant Hughes RNZVNR (A) was awarded:

1938-45 Star
Atlantic Star with clasp Air Crew Europe
Arctic Star 
Pacific Star
Defence Medal
War Medal
NZ War Service Medal New Zealand

William (Phil) Phillipps Hughes returned to teaching for a time but in 1950 applied for
and was accepted for a short term commission as a Lieutenant in New Zealand Regular

30383 Lieutenant Hughes served in Korea receiving the United Nations medal, with
Korea clasp. Promotion followed to Captain, Major and finally Lieutenant Colonel.

Major William (Phil) Phillip Hughes  1958 

Attachment to Army HQ in Wellington saw the Hughes family move to Plimmerton,
buying a house at 81 Motuhara Road. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes was working at the
Defence Department Electronic Data Centre in Porirua when, in 1966, he collapsed and

William Phillipps Hughes was survived by his wife Jean, his son and daughter.

In 1968 the family of William Phillipps Hughes donated a pulpit to St Andrews Church Plimmerton, in his memory. An
active member of the St Andrew’s congregation, Vestry and Central Parochial Committee from the time he settled in Plimmerton with his family in 1961. William Phillipps Hughes was known in the community as Major Hughes or Phil,
he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel only six months before his sudden death in December 1966 at age 45.[x]

NZ Defence Department Archives Military Files - Lieutenant Colonel William Phillip Hughes
Hughes Family
St Andrews. Plimmerton parish Records

HMS Nabob - Wikipedia
Wildcat - Wikipedia
Major Hughes - NZ Defence Department 

[i] Service Records: William Phillips Hughes
[ii] Service Record: William Phillips Hughes
[iii] Service Record: William Phillips Hughes
[iv] HMS Nabob: WWW.Naval-history.net
[v] Lieutenant Kurney RNZNVR (A): Auckland Cenotaph
[vi] HMS Trumpeter: WWW.Naval-history.net
[vii] Service Record: William Phillips Hughes
[viii] Service Record: William Phillips Hughes
[ix] Death of Army Officer: Dominion 2 November 1966
[x] St Andrews Parish Records
HMS Nabob