REMEMBERED: Former Lismore resident, Joseph Lewis-Hughes OBE, was an integral part of the State Emergency Services.
REMEMBERED: Former Lismore resident, Joseph Lewis-Hughes OBE, was an integral part of the State Emergency Services. Courtesy Geoffrey Lewis-Hughes

Vale Lismore's SES flood expert

FOR four decades, former much loved and respected Lismore resident Joseph Hugh Lewis-Hughes OBE, was an integral part of the State Emergency Services.

At 91 years young, Mr Lewis-Hughes passed away quietly after a short illness brought on by a stoke early December 2016.

Born in Forbes in central west NSW in 1926, he served in the Royal Australian Navy between 1943 and 1947, reached the rank of Lt and his Pacific service saw him take part in the occupying force in Japan.

Son Geoffrey who grew up in Lismore and then spent considerable time in the region, said although his father only spent a few days in Japan, the human ruin and destruction caused by the atom bomb were something that he always remembered.

"Hiroshima had a profound effect on him, I think the total devastation really affected him,” Geoffrey said.

"I know when he went back in early 2000 with my brother, he was very emotional.”

Upon his demobilisation, Mr Lewis-Hughes joined the Valuer-General's Department and became the district valuer in Lismore in 1950.

By then Mr Lewis-Hughes was married to Joan whom he met at the Hydro Majestic Spa in the Blue Mountains, in 1949.

It was a close and loving marriage which lasted 67 years until his death.

Mrs Lewis-Hughes said when they first met he was in civilian clothing and she had no idea he was in the Navy.

"I was on holiday with my mother and best friend and there were some lads staying at the place and we thought they were university students,” she said.

"Then on the last night they came out in their uniforms...we went back there for our honeymoon.”

It was in Lismore Mr Lewis-Hughes joined the Civil Defence and State Emergency Services Organisation in 1955.

He was instrumental in establishing the CDSES in the Northern Rivers and a year later in 1956 was the Richmond-Tweed region controller, where after seeing some extensive flooding that occurred in the region, undertook some much-need work codifying the principles of flood warning and evacuation.

With his military background, Mr Lewis-Hughes was a natural fit with the organisation, particularity during the Cold War of the late 1950s and the 1960s.

Then he held a key role in the event of a nuclear strike which was considered possible from a Soviet submarine firing warheads from the Pacific Ocean, for the planning of evacuation of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

Mr Lewis-Hughes remained a senior SES volunteer until 1973, when he took a paid role and became the organisation's full-time deputy director.

After Cyclone Tracey devastated Darwin in 1974, he played a key role in the management of the 13,000 evacuees who were flown to Sydney. By then he had moved to Dubbo, and in 1977 he became the first national president of the Australian Institute of Emergency Services.

Amongst many honours, in 1963 Mr Lewis-Hughes was awarded the Order of the British Empire - Officer (Civil) by the Queen as a result of his meritorious service as Region Controller for the SES and CD organisation during the numerous floods which occurred along the northern

rivers of NSW in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1989 he was recognised with the National Medal for diligent long service to the community in hazardous circumstances, including in times of emergency and national disaster, in direct protection of life and property.

His talents included contributing to a number of defence and emergency management journals and in 1978 his book The History of the Development of Flood Rescue Boats in New South Wales, was published.

Geoffrey recalled him as a man who loved reading and historical research.

"After he retired he went into marine history and he was a member of the Richmond River and Dubbo historical societies,” he said.

"He was an avid writer, he wrote for the SES, the naval journal, wrote three books, he was always busy always doing something. People who knew him knew he was keen gardener, he was a pretty handy bloke.”

Mr Lewis-Hughes is survived by his wife, children Peter, David, Michael, Geoffrey and Liz, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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