Bassendean Gulf War veteran says Remembrance Day holds special significance for him

Justin Hughes of Bassendean. Photo: David Baylis
Justin Hughes of Bassendean. Photo: David Baylis

WHEN Justin Hughes departed for the first Gulf War to join the large multi-national fleet it was a journey into the unknown.

The RSL Eastern Regional Sub-Branch Bassendean deputy vice-president said training was intense in the hope it would prepare them to survive the worst of scenarios.

“This was the first war Australia had participated in since the Vietnam War and our Navy had limited battle experience,” he said.

“We didn’t know what to expect. Some of us were young, I was only 20.

“We were under constant threat from sea mines, the unknown size of the Iraqi forces and whether Iran would join the fight leaving us extremely vulnerable in the enclosed Persian Gulf.

“After the war ended I travelled to Kuwait and witnessed the destruction that had been inflicted by the departing Iraqi forces to Kuwait’s oil fields and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.”

Mr Hughes said this Remembrance Day, which marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended WWI, held special significance.

“My great uncle Henry Boardman from the 11th Infantry Battalion was killed in action on April 25, 1915 at the Gallipoli landing,” he said.

“He joined in Geraldton, trained at Blackboy Hill and sailed out of Fremantle on the Ascanius to join the fleet from Albany.

“Unfortunately his older brother and my great-grandfather Henry Hughes died three months later taking with him the family history.”

Mr Hughes said the 100 Years of Anzacs promotion motivated him to contact relatives and delve into his family’s wartime history.

“I uncovered the lost history of my great uncle and his WA Railway work mates who freely volunteered their lives and went off to the Great War, many of who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

“In my great uncle’s case he had no wife or children and this hit home to myself as I was a single, young sailor when I went to war.

“If I’d died with my fellow shipmates some of us would have become lost in time.

“Hence Remembrance day is exactly that for myself, a time to remember those that have passed, who did serve and are currently serving who are prepared to openly give their lives to protect our country, allowing the freedom and opportunities we currently have.”

Mr Hughes’ family has a long involvement in the military including his uncle Anthony Horner who served in the Vietnam War and his son Sean Hughes who is currently serving in the Royal Australian Navy on the HMAS Toowoomba.

The RSL Eastern Regional Sub-Branch Bassendean will host a Remembrance Day ceremony at 10.30am on Sunday, November 11 at the Bassendean War Memorial.