Day of remembrance for teenage soldier

Gunner Robert Jeffery Hughes
Gunner Robert Jeffery Hughes

A poignant day of remembrance is being held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of a teenage soldier who was killed in action on his mother’s birthday.

Gunner Robert Jeffery Hughes, from Shilbottle, was 18 when he lost his life on April 28, 1966, while he was serving in Aden.

The Army recruit, from Lee Avenue, was with the 1st Regiment, The Royal Horse Artillery, and died during fighting with dissident tribesmen in the mountains of the Radfan area.

Tragically, he was killed on the same day as his mother Elizabeth’s 43rd birthday and she received the telegram the next day. Gunner Hughes’ name is on the village war memorial and a series of fund-raising events have been run to refurbish the skateboard park, with a plaque to be placed there in his memory.

And on Monday, a day of remembrance, organised by the Shilbottle and Hampeth Community Forum, will be held in the village. At 10.45am, a piper will play the congregation into St James’ Church, before an 11am service. This will be followed by a parade to the war memorial, led by marching pipe band, The Northumberland Scottish Pipes and Drums, at 11.30am.

At 11.45am, there will be prayers at the Memorial Garden and the bugler will sound the Last Post and Reveille. A march past with the band will begin at midday with a parade down Grange Road, along Kiln Lonnen, up Fallodon Avenue and back along Grange Road to the sports club. Refreshments will be served from 12.30pm and donations are encouraged. Veterans are welcome on the day and children/teenagers must be accompanied by parents.

Three weeks before his 16th birthday, Jeffery joined the Army and after completing two years in the boys’ service he volunteered for service in Aden in October 1965. He was killed six months later.

A contemporary Gazette article reported: ‘A telegram which arrived at the home of a Shilbottle woman on Friday told her that her soldier son had been killed in action the day before – her birthday’. Elizabeth said: ‘It was my birthday on Thursday. When the telegram arrived on Friday I thought it was a greetings telegram, I got a terrible shock.’