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Professor James Quentin Hughes MC and Bar, OBE

1920 – 2004
Soldier, Educator, Architect, Historian, Liverpool Conservationist, Authority on Fortifications

Professor James Quentin Hughes was the only child of a Vicar.  He was born in Liverpool on the 28th February 1920 and educated at Rydal School in North Wales.  In 1939 at the beginning of his university training as an architect at The Liverpool University School of Architecture he volunteered for Officer Training with the Royal Artillery.  He was dispatched on the illustrious Force H convoy sent to relieve the beleaguered island of Malta, Jimmy ( as he liked to be called by his friends) Hughes, lived through the appalling bombardment.  He organised the coastal battery defences and the training of the locally recruited Malta Regiment.   In January 1944 with a party of five parachutists, under the command of Major Tony Widdrington, he took off from the American air base in Italy, on Operation Pomegranate.  Their aim was to raid the airfield at San Egidio and destroy German reconnaissance aircraft prior to the forthcoming landings at Anzio.

As they neared the airfield the landing lights came on and four Junkers flew in.  A fifth crashed and burst into flames,  it was 10.30 pm before they were able to release their bombs.  As they were defusing surplus bombs, one exploded, killing Widdrington.  Hughes was temporarily blinded and concussed.  After being taken to hospital he was interrogated and then placed in solitary confinement, after being told that he would probably be shot as a saboteur.  Hughes had partly recovered, and although he was blind in one eye the Gestapo insisted that he must be handed over to be shot,  but a German Staff Officer whom he had befriended in hospital, succeeded in getting him re-classified as a prisoner of war.

During his stay in hospital he met an American Army Air Force sergeant and a private in the Signal Corps and while outside Modena, on a train heading north, the three men climbed out of the windows and escaped.  Hughes and his comrades headed for the Allied lines.   At the end of March, helped by the local partisans, Hughes joined an escape party of 22 PoWs and headed for Fermo, near the Adriatic coast.   Quentin was awarded an immediate MC for the raid.  The citation stated that he and Widdrington had destroyed four Ju 88s, two Fieseler Storch aircraft and one Ju 52. Within a fortnight of learning of the award, he was told that he had been given a Bar to it for his escape.  In July 1945 he was injured in a Jeep accident and had to retire from the Army.

1946 saw the completion of his undergraduate studies at Liverpool in Architecture, reading a second degree in Town Planning.  He gained his PhD at Leeds University  and was appointed to the teaching staff at the Liverpool School of Architecture. He was made Reader in Architecture in 1972.  In 1955  he became a lecturer and later reader at the Liverpool School of Architecture.   He was a well respected teacher, and many of his undergraduates will remember with affection his appearances in the Lecture Hall dressed in battle fatigues sporting a 9mm captured Luger modified as a cigarette lighter.

His time on Malta left a lasting impression and deep affection for the islands and the Maltese, which led to him writing of the definitive architectural histories of the Island.  In 1968 he moved to Malta to set up The Royal University of Malta Department of Architecture at the invitation of the Maltese Government.  He became its first Professor of Architecture and inspired a generation of architects.  He received the Order of Merit of Malta in 2004. He is a founder member of the Fortress Study Group, and was editor of their journal "Fort". Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Society of Antiquaries.  He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1999 for services to Architectural Conservation.

Quentin Hughes later in life became a conservation architect, earning him admiration and respect for his conservation and lobbying efforts from many grateful  Merseysiders, who, to this day are able to admire the many important Liverpool buildings which he was instrumental in saving for future generations to appreciate.

He is the author of numerous books including:

"Seaport -Architecture and Town Planning in Liverpool"(1969),
“Military  Fortress”: Architecture and Military History in Malta  (1969)
"Strong as the Rock of Gibraltar" with Athanassios Migos (1995)
“Who Cares Who Wins” (1968) An account of his military adventures.
"The Building of Malta:1530-1795" (1956)

Rob Ainsworth