Captain Reginald Frederick Johnson Hayward VC was the son of stockbreeder Frederick and Gertrude Hayward. He was born on 17 June 1891 at the Beersheba Mission Station near Swartruggens, East Griqualand, and was educated at Hilton College Natal, Durban Business College and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the United Kingdom.
In May 1912 Reginald joined 6th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 29 September 1914. During October 1916 he was involved in action at Stuff Redoubt, Thiepval, France and he was awarded the Military Cross, a bar was added to his MC during the battle of Messines in Belgium.
In March 1918, as the Germans advanced towards Bapaume, the 1st Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment was moved to the north of Fremicourt, a village east of Bapaume and just south of the Cambrai road. 4th Corps was trying to hold a line between Vaulx and Morchies to the north of the road. The surviving Wiltshires, three officers and 54 NCO’s and men, were gathered at Bihucourt, north-west of Bapaume, on 24 March. When the German offensive had opened on the 21st, 8th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment mounted an unsuccessful counter-attack at Doignies to try and contain the enemy advance south of the Cambrai-Bapaume road. They were then withdrawn west to Velu Wood. By the 23rd, the German advance had reached this point and the Glosters, together with the 10th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment was ordered to cover the further withdrawal of British forces. Bapaume itself was abandoned to the Germans.
The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette for Supplement: 30648, Page:4967, reads:
“For most conspicuous bravery in action. This officer, while in command of a company, displayed almost superhuman powers of endurance and consistent courage of the rarest nature. In spite of the fact that he was buried, wounded in the head, and rendered deaf on the first day of operations, and had his arm shattered two days later, he refused to leave his men (even though he received a third serious injury to his head), until he collapsed from sheer physical exhaustion.
Throughout the whole of this period the enemy was attacking his company front without cessation, but Captain Hayward continued to move across the open front from one trench to another with absolute disregard of his own personal safety, concentrating entirely on re-organising his defences and encouraging his men.
It was almost entirely due to the magnificent example of ceaseless energy of this officer that many determined attacks on his portion of the trench system failed entirely.“
Reginald Hayward survived the war and continued to serve in the military in Dublin, Egypt and Palestine. In April 1935 he was transferred to the Reserves. During the Second World War he served as Commander of the Royal Army Service Corps Anti-Aircraft Command. He retired on 09 July 1947 as an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel.
Apart from his Victoria Cross and Military Cross with Bar he was awarded the 1914 – 1915 Star, British War Medal 1914 – 1920, Victory Medal 1914 – 1919, Defence Medal 1939 – 1945, Coronation Medal 1937, Coronation Medal 1953 and Territorial Efficiency decoration.
He died on 17 January 1970 in Chelsea, London and was cremated on 23 January 1970 at the Putney Vale Crematorium, London while his ashes are scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.
(Based off an extract published in The VC and the GC, The Complete History, by Methuen and The VC and GC Association in 2013.)
© DRW 2015-2021. Created 08/03/2015, edited 17/05/2017. Moved to Musings 11/02/2021