Cecil Albert Francis “Frank” Hughes AM

b. 11/11/1861 Wrexham, Wales. d. 01/06/1919 Brisbane, Queensland.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 19/03/1907 Bonnievale District, Australia.

Cecil A F H “Frank” Hughes AM

He was born in Wrexham, North Wales, and educated at Ruabon Grammar School. By 1886 he was in Australia and on 22nd October 1887, he married Martha Cobble at Manse Methodist Church, Maryborough, Queensland. They had six children.



On the 19th March, 1907, an exceedingly heavy and sudden downpour of rain in the Bonnievale District caused a flood, and the inundation of the Westralia and East Extension Mine from the lower level (1,354 feet from the surface) to the No. 9 (900 feet) level. With the exception of an Italian named Modesto Varischetti all the miners effected their escape. He was working by himself in a rise 28 feet above the No. 10 (1,000 feet) level, and was cut off by the flood waters and imprisoned, as in a diving bell, the air in the rise unable to escape keeping the water at a lower level than in the main shaft, and in the stopes above the No. .10 level, where the surface of the water was 50 feet above the point where Varischetti was imprisoned. It was at first thought that the entombed miner must have lost his life, but efforts were made to communicate with him by knocking on the rock, and after a time his signals were heard in response. It was at once decided to attempt his rescue by the aid of divers, seeing that by making use of all the available means of draining the Mine at least ten days would have elapsed before the water could have been lowered to the No. 10 level. Diving dresses were telegraphed for to Perth, and through the energetic assistance of the Chief Harbourmaster at Fremantle were obtained without delay, so that in less than eight hours from the time of the despatch of the telegraphic message a special train was on its way to the Goldfields with two divers, Messrs. Curtis and Hearne, with their assistants and diving outfits. Meantime two other divers, Messrs. F. Hughes and Fox, of Kalgoorlie, who had lately followed the occupation of miners, and were familiar with the local mining practice, had volunteered their services and had gone to the flooded mine. The first-mentioned divers arrived early on the morning of the 22nd March, and it was considered advisable that Hughes and Fox, on account of their mining experience, should make the first attempt at rescue. They would have to descend through an ore-pass from the No. 9 to the No. 10 level, a distance of 100 feet, then turn at right angles along the latter level, and go along it 250 feet to reach the foot of the rise where the man was imprisoned. Both divers would have to go down the ore-pass, and one would then remain at the bottom of it to pass his comrade’s air-pipe and lines round the angle so as to prevent them from fouling. The work was of a difficult and dangerous nature, having to be performed without knowledge of the shape of the cavities to be passed through, and often in very cramped space, and subject to the continual danger that the flooding might have displaced timbers or so loosened the ” filling ” in the worked out ground as to make it liable to run into the pass or the level and overwhelm the rescuers. Hughes led the way and after some difficulty reached the bottom of the pass, where he found the shoot into the level choked.with about half a ton of ore; he cleared this out, took the door off the shoot, and got down into the level, but then had to return twice to No. 9 as the other diver did not come down to him. It proved that Fox had been unable to get down, and on making his second attempt he sustained an injury to his leg which caused him to retire from fiuther participation in the work. Diver Hearne then took his place, and Hughes and he. went down to the No. 10 level, but both had to return to arrange certain matters. They then descended again, and Hughes struggled along the level, knee deep in sludge, to the rise, where he was able to find the air hosepipe leading to Varischetti’s rock-drill, and after shaking it several times obtained a signal in reply from the imprisoned man. Hughes was then so exhausted that he had to return after fixing a guide-line for future use. After a rest of 3 hours Hughes and Hearne again descended, the descent be’ing the fifth that Hughes had made that day. He succeeded in reaching Varischetti, shook hands -with -him, and supplied him with .an electric lamp, food, and other necessaries. Next day he again made a visit. Hearne .as before staying at the angle at the foot of the ore-pass; and daily visits were repeated until the 28th March, when the water had been lowered sufficiently to make it just possible for a man to wade along the No. 10 level from the ore-pass with his head out of the water. Diver Hughes then went in twice without his diving dress and talked to Varischetti, and then made a third trip and brought him out, carrying him portion of the way, the entombed man’s strength having failed him.