© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons


454 RAAF Squadron Desert Air Force


John Patrick McHugh

Born in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland in 1921

Died 03/02/2014


John grew up in a tied cottage with his Mother and two sisters and his father worked on the farm.


Early recollections, which he recalled in the last two weeks before he died, included getting up and milking the cow before he went to school.  He was often late and would be severely chastised across the palms!


His father died in John’s early teens and he was sent to live with Aunt Edie, his mother’s sister, and Uncle Cyril in Chelmsford.  He worked at Hoffmans till the outbreak of war when he was a perfect age to join up although, being in a war effort industry didn’t join the RAF until 1941, qualifying as Air Crew in October 1942.  


For most of his war service he was attached to 454 and 459 combined Squadrons of the RAAF.  454 Squadron operated on Coastal Command out of Benghazi carrying out reconnaissance work in the Aegean and Convoy Patrols in the Mediterranean.


On 27th February 1944 they were attacked by two ME 109’s off Crete for 20 minutes sustaining numerous cannon holes and crash landed at Derna, a disused airstrip.  It was a lucky escape for the crew and the pilot F/O Crouch was awarded the DFC for his part in the episode.  


After the war he was first assigned to training in South Africa where he developed his passion for teaching.  But he was soon assigned to the Recruiting Office in Southampton where he stayed until early ’49, which was when he moved to a new job at County Hall in Chelmsford.  From there he applied to, and then did his teacher’s training at, Gaddesden Training College at Ashridge House in Hertfordshire.


Having met and married Freda in Southampton he maintained his support throughout his later life for “The Saints” - Southampton Football Club – who also, incidentally, play at St Mary’s, where neither the organ, nor the singing are as good as St Mary’s Dunmow, where the funeral takes place!


He spent his early teaching career at Melbourne Park School in Chelmsford, where he taught Michael in his 11+ year.  He devoted much of his spare time during this period taking night school in London and coaching local football teams.


1963 he was appointed Headmaster at Great Easton School and was a key figure in the development of the Plowden Report.  In the mid ‘70’s he moved to become Head at St Mary’s Primary in Dunmow where he stayed until his retirement in 1985.


Then he took up bowls …….




John Patrick McHUGH