Wifrid Hughes in POW uniform

109404 Cpl. Wilfrid Harvey Gwyn-Hughes was born to John Gwyn-Hughes and Mary Ann Elizabeth Cossens in Newport, Wales, on May 27th, 1876. The family moved from Monmouth to Newport in 1875 and then settled in Cardiff in 1879.

Whilst very little is known about his life growing up, Wilfrid married Emily Sievewright in 1903. Together, they had one son, John Gwyn Hughes, our father, who was born in Twickenham, England, on July 23rd, 1910. We think it was at this time that our grandfather changed the last name from a hyphenated Gwyn-Hughes and used Gwyn as our father's second name. Our father was known as Gwyn Hughes all his life.

Wilfrid served as a volunteer in the 3rd Battalion of the Welsh Regiment (the old 41st) in the Boer War, seeing action in 1900 – 1901. He received a medal for his part in that campaign.

Emigrating to Canada with Emily and his three year old son in 1913, Wilfrid signed up in Toronto on November 27th, 1914, attesting as part of the original group forming the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles.

On his Attestation form he lists his age as 36, however he was born in 1876 - this would make him 38. Whether this was a deliberate attempt by our grandfather to alter his age to avoid being too old, we do not know. However we do know that Emily returned to Wales with her son, Gwyn, to wait out his service.

W H Hughes Boer War and WW1 medals.

On June 2nd 1916, Wilfrid was wounded in the opening hours of the 'Battle for Mount Sorrel', near Sanctuary Wood, a couple miles south of Ieper (then spelt Ypres) in Belgium. Wilfrid was among 257 men of the 4th CMR taken prisoner that morning. [Click on the image of Wilfrid above to see the full picture of him in his POW uniform].

From letters sent to Emily, we know he was injured in the face and his mouth remained open for some time. His correspondences over this time talk of his needs and the dullness of life in the camp. After repatriation on September 2nd, 1918, he wrote of the pleasure of a proper bed, and clean sheets in his barracks in Holland. He commended Doctor Klein who treated him, and complained of bullying by the German guards.

For his service, Wilfrid was awarded three medals: the 1914 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. The veterans in the UK referred to these medals as "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred" [seen above right, with his Boer War medal].

Wilfrid, Emily and Gwyn, now 11 years old, returned to Canada in 1921. There is sparse information on the family from this time forward. Wilfrid listed his occupation as "Clerk" even though this description was discouraged as being too vague. We recall our father mentioning that Grandpa was a clerk for the municipality of Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto.

W H Hughes headstone, St.Augustine's Seminary, Scarborough, Ont.

Wilfrid Harvey Hughes passed away on February 16th, 1943. He lies at rest at St. Augustine's Seminary on the Kingston Road in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

Post Script: John Gwyn Hughes and his wife Margaret (nee Sheridan) produced 8 offspring: John Gwyn II, Mary Louise, Trevor Edward, Wilfrid Sheridan, Patricia Ann, Stephen Geoffrey, Gregory Lawrence and James Anthony.

The Great War experiences of Wilfrid Harvey Hughes have been passed onto this generation and the next, through stories, pictures and his POW letters (even shared over the years with Canadian school children during history class).

Thanks and credit to the Hughes family for the above biography and images.