My father, born in April 1933, remembers travelling up to the West End with my grandparents to celebrate VE Day on the 8th May 1945. The journey would have been a quick one from their home in Stoke Newington and dad recalls people hanging from lamposts and waving flags; the spontaneous kissing of strangers, and colonial troops camping in Green Park. Dad got talking to a soldier from a Hong Kong unit and promised he’d write to him in Hong Kong. He did so, but never got a reply. The mood was one of joy and celebration but for many of course, that joy would have been tempered by personal tragedy, the loved ones who never came back.
1783540 Gunner Alfred Hayes, the man pictured here, was born in 1913 in Llanwynd, Mountain Ash, Glamorganshire and was still living there when he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery. He initially served with 252 Battery, 18 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, joining the unit on the 21st October 1941, and he died on the 15th September 1943 whilst serving with 99 Battery, 18 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. His casualty card, held by the Royal Artillery records that he was a Middle East casualty although he is is buried in Salerno War Cemetery in Italy. At the time of his death, Alfred was a father-to-be and of course, never got to see his son, Nigel being born. Nigel was robbed of the father he never knew.
In this undated photo, taken overseas, Alfred wears (clean) bandages on both hands, possibly as a result of burns, although that is pure conjecture on my part.
On the British Army Ancestors site you can currently search over 12m soldier records. The vast majority of these men served in the army before 1939 but I do have records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Debt of Honour and Alfred is included in this collection. In due course I will add more records from the Second World War as I continue to strive to make this website the go-to site for photographs of British Army soldiers.
On this, the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, I am also proud to remember Alfred on the British Army Ancestors Facebook page.