Hughes, Albert Edwin (Twin brother of Arthur William)
8th (Kings Royal Irish) Hussars
Albert Edwin Hughes was born on the 1st of June 1879 and baptized on the 22nd of the same month at St James Norlands along with his twin brother.
Albert was the 6th child, along with his brother, of at least nine, but probably more, born to William Hughes and his wife Georgina (maiden name unknown) William was employed as a labourer and when the boys were baptized the family were living at 16, Tobin Street, Notting Hill.
Tobin Street was described thus by Charles Booth “ cement paved small houses with yard door at the side. Was a great place for pig-keeping! Poor, hardworking. Many faces of pronounced gipsy types with coal black hair and eyes and dark complexions.
A mixture. Some have built their own houses and own the freehold”
By the time the 1881 census was taken the family were living round the corner at 14, Thresher’s Cottages.
Charles Booth described these cottages as “two storey houses, both sides cement paved with wall between the two. The W.C.’s of the southern block are against the wall.”
Albert’s father died in 1886,and the Poor Law records show that the boys were admitted to Beechholme on the 15th of October that year. The two boys were both resident in Beechholme aged 11 when the 1891 census was taken. Their mother Georgina was employed as a laundress at this time and living in shared accommodation with an older son and daughter and a younger daughter. The two oldest children were employed as a woodchopper and a laundress respectively.
Both boys have consecutive army numbers in the 8th Hussars as they were sent out together from Beechholme on the 3rd of October 1893 to the army at the age of fourteen. A follow up report on Albert by the school dated the 12th of August 1896 states "Bandmaster states his conduct has given every satisfaction".
Much has been written in other soldiers stories about the work of the 8th Hussars in the Boer War so instead this section includes a piece on the background of the two armies. It would be difficult to find two such contrasting armies as those that went to war.
Apart from the Artillery Corps, the two Boer republics had no standing armies and relied on the mobilization of every man between sixteen and sixty when the time came. There was no uniform, no money and no formal training. All that was required of each burgher was that he had a horse, saddle and bridle, a rifle plus thirty rounds of ammunition and enough provisions for eight days. If any of those things was lacking, the government provided them. The Boer was often to be seen with a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other. More than eighty percent of burghers on commando were members of the Dutch Reformed church and a common saying was “ If God is for us, who is against us?” The Boer citizen armies were split into commandos of between 500 and 2,000 men who generally speaking came from the same area. Their commanding officers were elected by the members of the commando, and all officers, regardless of their rank had an equal say in war councils.
Such an egalitarian system meant that the Boers did not enforce the kind of military discipline that was so familiar to the British army. To complete the picture of an unmilitary army, the burghers often travelled with their possessions, and their families would pitch their wagons nearby in large encampments known as laagers.
The British army on the other hand was strictly hierarchal and spent much of its time drilling on the parade ground. While the Boer army was an army of individuals each acting as he saw fit, the British army was dependent on orders and textbook advances. The Boer in battle would strike quickly, and retreat quickly. The British would advance slowly in close order, wait for the command, fire strictly in volleys and then fix bayonets. Whereas the Boers were essentially mounted infantry armed with modern rifles, the proportion of British mounted troops was only about ten percent. Most of these were cavalrymen dependent on the traditional sabre and lance.
There was a culture of complacency among the British exemplified by the fact that only two intelligence officers looked after the whole of the colonial Empire. The budget for the intelligence division was just £11,000 per annum compared with the Transvaal’s £90,000 per annum. Deficiencies in intelligence would make themselves painfully clear throughout the course of the war.
The advance in weapons technology in the years prior to the war were vital in determining how this war would be fought. Smokeless powder now meant that a man could fire without giving away his position, and the latest rifles could now rapidly discharge a number of bullets before it was necessary to reload. The Maxim machine gun introduced in the 1880’s fired for as long as the trigger was squeezed, but, although they were widely available, the British sent relatively few of these guns to South Africa, believing them to be not quite the thing for civilized warfare.
The British would send almost 450,000 soldiers to South Africa in order to defeat a force that never numbered more than about 35,000 at any one time.
It was a war that as Kipling remarked, “taught the British no end of a lesson”.
Albert was awarded the Queens South African medal with 1901 and 1902, Transvaal and Orange Free State clasps.
He was discharged from the army by purchase according to the UK Army Military Campaign medals held by Ancestry.
On the 1911 census Albert is living with his wife Mary in Leeds. They have two children and his occupation is given as professional musician in music halls.
His date of death is unknown.