The two brothers were both involved in the brick making business and living at Kings Meadows, Launceston when they enlisted. William enlisted first on 4 March 1916, followed a couple of weeks later by his older brother John who may have enlisted with the idea of keeping an eye on his younger brother.
Both brothers were allotted to the 40th Battalion with William being allotted to ‘A’ Company, while John served with ‘C’ Company.
William was taken on strength with the 40th Battalion on 23 September. He had an unblemished record until 21 August 1917 when he was charged with ‘talking on the march whilst marching at attention and neglecting to obey an officer.’ He was found guilty and given 14 days Field Punishment No. 2. On 13 October 1917 he sustained a wound to his left hand and was evacuated to England for treatment. Here he managed to go AWOL several times before being sent back to the Front re-joining the unit on 15 August 1918.. He was wounded again on 24 August sustaining a serious shrapnel wound to his left foot which required the amputation of two toes.
On 4 January 1919 William departed England for home. Despite his war service William died at the age of 94 years in 1990.
Some of the papers that would normally be found in a service record tracking a soldiers movements are missing from John McHugh’s record. John remained in England until 23 November when he proceeded to France. On Christmas Day 1916 he became ill and was sent to hospital, re-joining his unit on New Year’s Day 1917. It would appear that he managed to serve at the Front unscathed until 11 March 1918 when he developed trench fever and was evacuated to England for treatment. On 28 October he was taken on strength with the Administration Headquarters until August 1920 when he returned to Australia.
John later married and lived at Kings Meadows where he bred, trained and raced horses. On Sunday 27 September 1953 he received serious injuries following a fall from a sulky while exercising a horse. He died on 16 October 1953 aged 64 years without knowing that one of his yearling has won first prize at the Launceston Show.
Making up the trio is:
Private James Colin Machen, 40th Battalion
James was also a brickmaker from Kings Meadows and was probably already mates with William McHugh, the two friends deciding to enlist on the same day. James was a 22 year old single brick maker and on being accepted was allotted to the 40th Battalion.
He was taken on strength with the Battalion on 23 September 1916. Over the next two years he had several admissions to hospital in France for various complaints including an abscess and bronchitis. In June 1918 he was admitted to the 1st Australian General Hospital at Rouen. Whilst there the decision was made to evacuate him to England for further treatment of an undisclosed condition. His time at the front was over when it was decided that he should be returned to Australia for discharge having been diagnosed with neurasthenia—a neurosis marked by chronic abnormal tiredness, lack of energy, loss of appetite and insomnia.
James Machen died on 12 September 1954 aged 60 years. It would appear that he did not marry.