Corporal Charles Hayes

Corporal Charles William Hayes


Unit : No.9 Platoon, "C" Company, 156 Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 6009204

Awards : Distinguished Conduct Medal


Charles Hayes was born in Marylebone, London, in 1911, the eldest child of Charles William Hayes and Margery Annie Hayes (nee Morris). He joined the Essex Regiment on the 4th November 1930, and on his return to civilian life in 1937 married Iris Lina Margaret Stokes. In 1939, they and their daughter had moved to 7 Browning Avenue, Chelmsford, and Charles was employed at Hoffmann's, the ball bearing manufacturer. Recalled to the Essex Regiment, he was almost immediately posted overseas, and in 1941 was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his part in the defence of Tobruk. His citation reads:


On night 29th November when the forward Companies were over-run by enemy tanks and infantry, and posts of various arms adjacent to that of Corporal Hayes' started to withdraw, Corporal Hayes held firm to his own position, and under heavy fire from enemy tanks at a range of about 400 yards in the failing light, got out of his post and rallied men of the other Companies who were starting to withdraw. He took charge of the stragglers of the other sub-units, and organised the whole into a party capable of dealing with any further enemy advance. Corporal Hayes was at that time commanding a platoon which was somewhat detached from the rest of his Company. Corporal Hayes by his disregard of danger and quick grasp of the situation, held together that position of the Company, and definitely contributed to the successful defence of the position.


Hayes later volunteered for the Parachute Regiment and joined the 156 Parachute Battalion. On the 18th September 1944, he was wounded on the landing zone and subsequently became a prisoner of war, as reported in the following newspaper article.


Chelmsford D.C.M. missing at Arnhem


Cpl. Charles W. Hayes, D.C.M., 1st Airborne Division, is reported wounded and missing at Arnhem on Sept. 25.


His Commanding Officer has written to Mrs. Hayes, of Brownings Avenue, Chelmsford: "Your husband is, I am sorry to say, wounded and missing. He received a wound in the arm just after landing, and when I saw him he appeared to be in practically no pain and very cheerful. We left him with a number of other wounded men at the landing place in charge of medical orderlies and I feel that there is every chance he may be a prisoner. He was one of the most popular members of the unit."


Cpl. Hayes won the D.C.M. at Tobruk, while serving with the Essex Regiment, and the King, on presenting him with the medal last May, said: "I warmly congratulate you upon your great bravery. You brought honour to yourself and to your Regiment."


Some months ago Cpl. Hayes volunteered for the Parachute Regiment. Mrs. Hayes will be very grateful for any information about her husband.


Corporal Hayes did indeed become a prisoner of war, and after passing through Stalag XIIA at Limburg was sent to Stalag VIIIC at Sagan. In early February 1945, this camp was evacuated and the prisoners marched westward away from the advancing Red Army; the infamous Long March. A month later they had reached Steinau, near to their ultimate destination of Stalag IXB at Bad Orb, where a German doctor separated Hayes and a number of others from the column, as they were suffering badly with dysentery, and sent them to the hospital at Bad Soden. Hayes did not recover, and passed away on the 16th March 1945, aged 34, the causes of death being recorded as "general paralysis, weak heart and low blood pressure". He was first buried at Bad Soden but now rests at the Durnbach War Cemetery.


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