• Mark Green conducted research to locate the site of the original memorial for Private Claude Hughes who was killed in action in Belgium in World War One.

Tracing the mate of a family member

When the Chief Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation, Mark Green, selected a soldier to research for the Frank MacDonald Memorial Study Tour he did not need to look any further than his family tree.

Mark was inspired by the story of his wife's relative, Sergeant Walter Brown VC DCM from New Norfolk, in Tasmania, and Walter's best mate, Private Claude Clark Hughes, a butcher, from Whittlesea, Victoria, who was killed in action in Belgium on 9 October 1917, at the age of 27.  The two become friends when they served as butchers in the same Field Butchery Unit in France, and both managed to be transferred to the 20th Battalion.   

"I have gained so much from undertaking my soldier's research and a deeper understanding of what confronted all those who lived through the war," Mark said.

Mark found an exact map reference from the time which located a memorial Walter placed on Claude's grave.  With the benefit of Google maps, Mark visited the exact site near Zonnebeke in Belgium. 

The area under the cross contained the remains of nine Australian soldiers and individual identification proved impossible. By 1919, the plaque referring to Hughes was missing, and the cross became simply a memorial to members of the 20th Battalion.

By 1921, moves were underway to remove private memorials from the landscape an Private Hughes' cross disappeared. Claude Hughes eventually became one of the 54,325 names on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres in Belgium as having no known grave.

"Claude and Walter's tale is a great story of mateship in war, and the lengths soldiers went to in order to honour the sacrifice of their comrades.  It was very moving standing on the very spot where Claude was killed and talking to the group about it," Mark said.

A profile about Sergeant Walter Brown VC DCM can be found on the Centenary of ANZAC website.

  • With no cross remaining to mark the grave, Private Claude Clark Hughes became one of 54,325 names engraved in the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres, in Belgium.

Soldiers researched for the Frank MacDonald Study Tour