Tributes to Haywards Heath war veteran and journalist

Tributes have been paid to a World War Two veteran and journalist who died at the age of 96.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 3:18 pm
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 3:24 pm

Thomas Hughes, who lived in Haywards Heath and was part of the Muster Green Remembrance Service every year, died on November 8, and a funeral was held for him on November 26.

His daughter, Jane Hughes, said he was a member of the local British Legion and a guard of honour was held for him at the Church of the Presentation.

Tom saw action with the 9th Parachute Battalion in the Battle of the Bulge and the forced crossing of the Rhine.

Haywards Heath war veteran Tom Hughes has died aged 96. Picture contributed

He was born at Ebbw Vale, South Wales, on May 24, 1924. 

His father was a pharmaceutical chemist who worked at Boots. When he became manager of the branch at Upper Norwood in London, his family moved there.

Tom was educated at Dulwich College and served in the Home Guard before being called up and posted to the Royal Artillery. He volunteered for the newly-formed Parachute Regiment.

In March 1945, he took part in Operation Varsity, the daylight parachute and glider assault into Germany which forced a crossing of the Rhine.

Picture contributed

Having secured its objectives on the Rhine, 6th Airborne Division was ordered to push on across Northern Germany to Wismar on the Baltic coast in order to prevent a Russian advance into Denmark.

After the war he went with the battalion to Palestine where they were involved in internal security duties.

In 1946, he was demobilised and joined South London Press as a district reporter.

After working as a sub-editor at Reuters, he joined the foreign staff at The Daily Mail.

Tom and his wife, Pam, moved from South London to Haywards Heath in around 1963 with two – later three – children and Tom commuted daily to his job as a journalist in Fleet Street from there.

For 20 years, he worked for The Daily Telegraph, variously on the foreign staff, as commonwealth correspondent, night foreign editor and assistant foreign editor. He was also a freelance contributor to the BBC as well as national newspapers and magazines. 

In 1989, he retired but he was an active member of the 9th Parachute Battalion Reunion Club, a group of veterans and their families who travel to Normandy every year to the Merville Battery, now a thriving museum.

Tom married Pam in October 1958. She died in May 2018 and he is survived by their three daughters.

In Haywards Heath, Tom was known for a long time as a regular in coffee shops in and around South Road.

His longevity was down to his commitment to regular exercise, his daughter, Jane, said. She said he believed in maintaining a daily routine of walking a brisk two or three miles a day right up to his 90s.

In November 2019, Tom stood for hours at Haywards Heath railway station selling poppies for the Royal British Legion.

Jane said: “One hassled commuter suggested to him that she did not believe in the poppy principles. Dad responded that he and others fought in the war so that people would have the freedom for such choices.”

Tom’s funeral service can be viewed online at https://vimeo.com/483759202 until October 2021.