24/05/1924 – 08/11/2020
Thomas Rhys Hughes was born in Ebbw Vale, South Wales on May 24, 1924. Thomas was educated at Dulwich College and later served with the Home Guard to protect his country from possible enemy landings before being called and assigned to the Royal Artillery. He volunteered for the newly created «Parachute Regiment». At the end of five weeks of training, Thomas broke his foot. Because of this, he was unable to accompany the 9th Battalion to Normandy on D-Day, but it may have saved his life, given the unit’s losses during the Merville Battery attack. On 24 March 1945, he took part in Operation Varsity. His jump was delayed because the aircraft’s green light was not working. After landing in a field, Thomas was approached by a group of German soldiers who wanted to surrender to him. He waved at them and when he joined the rest of his comrades, he realized there was a group of 30 prisoners.
After securing their targets on the Rhine, the 6th Airborne was ordered to push to Wismar in northern Germany on the Baltic coast in anticipation of a Russian advance in Denmark. The division has covered 450km in 37 days fighting the enemy many times on its way. Thomas was involved in many fierce battles, notably in Greven and Wissigen. On May 2, the division reached Wismar and it was at this same time that they made the junction with advanced elements of the Red Army.
After the war, Thomas left with the 9th Battalion in Palestine. In 1946, he was demobilized and joined the South London Press as a journalist. After working as editorial secretary at Reuters, he joined the Daily Mail’s foreign team. For 20 years he worked for the Daily Telegraph, variously on foreign staff, as a Commonwealth correspondent, foreign night editor and deputy foreign editor. This period was interrupted between 1976 and 1980 by an unpaid sabbatical in the Solomon Islands, in the Western Pacific, as chief information officer. Thomas was also an independent contributor to the BBC and national newspapers and magazines. He retired in 1989, but until 2015 he produced The Outrigger magazine for the Pacific Island Society. He was an active member of the 9th Battalion meeting club. This group of veterans and their families travelled every year to Normandy, to the Merville Battery.
Until August 2020, he edited the newsletter “The Red Beret”.
In 1958, he married Pamela Lawrence who died in 2018. He is survived by his three daughters. The youngest Elizabeth, was named to the Order of the British Empire in the 2021 New Year’s List of Honours for her humanitarian crisis operations.