Pat Hughes was among the pilots who fought under the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. He was also the highest-scoring Australian in that battle and among the top three highest-scoring Australians during World War II. Even so, not many have heard about his name or his story, although it was definitely something worth telling. In 2016, Dennis Newton, an Australian aviation author, wrote a book titled A Spitfire Pilot’s Story: Pat Hughes: Battle of Britain Top Gun, and only then was his story heard.

Enlisted in the RAAF

Paterson Clarence Hughes was born on September 19, 1917, in Numeralla, New South Wales. He was the eleventh among the twelve children and the last among the four boys. His father was a teacher, although he worked at the community office by the time Hughes was born. He was also a writer, contributing to newspapers and magazines like “The Bulletin.” Pat would inherit his father’s interest in literature.

Paterson Clarence Hughes 1936. (Paramount Studio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

He entered Cooma Public School until he was 12, then the Petersham Boys’ School when they moved to Haberfield, Sydney. Apart from sports, Pat would develop an interest in aircraft modeling and building crystal radio sets. He entered Fort Steet High School for a while but left after eight months to work a Saunders’ Jewellers. On January 20, 1936, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Royal Australian Navy. Both accepted him, but he chose to join the RAAF.

Spitfire Pilot

And so he learned to fly an aircraft in de Havilland Moths and then to Westland Wapitis. He graduated in December 1936, and under the pre-war arrangement between the British and Australian governments, he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. His decision had not been easy, but he was also curious to explore England and experience what he thought was an easy life with beer and women.