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2771 Private John Hayes 1John Hayes was the eldest son of Ebenezer and Catherine Hayes (nee Pearson) and he was baptised on the 9th January 1898 at St. Mark`s Church in Preston. John had six sisters and one brother, the others being;

  • Elizabeth Grace (1896)
  • Edith (1900)
  • Mary Ann (1903)
  • Clifford Muirhead (1905)
  • Florence (1909)
  • Bertha (1910)
  • Evelyn Vera (1913)

John`s father Ebenezer Hayes filled in and signed the 1911 Census form and on it states that he and his wife Catherine had been married for 15 years. However, details of their marriage have thus far proved to be rather elusive. At the time the family was living in a four roomed terraced house at 17 Robinson Street where Ebenezer Hayes was working for Preston Corporation as a steam crane driver on the docks. The eldest daughter Elizabeth Grace worked in a cotton mill while thirteen year old John was a butcher`s errand boy. One of John`s younger sisters, Mary Ann was staying with her paternal Grandfather John Hayes in Ashton Street.

As a young lad John had attended Christ Church Sunday School and Mission and had been a member of the Christ Church football team. At some point between 1911 and 1914 he left his job as an errand boy and went to work as a railway cleaner on the Lancs & Yorks Railway at Preston and he was still working on the railway prior to his enlistment. Unfortunately John`s service papers are unavailable so the date of his enlistment is unknown but his service number of 2771 suggests it was probably between September and November 1914. John Hayes had managed to enlist when he was only 16 years old.

On the 4th May 1915 he sailed to France with the main body of the 1/4th Battalion and was a member of “A” Company. Sadly, John was one of the many who perished during the “great bayonet charge” at Festubert on Tuesday, 15th June 1915, he was just 17 years old. (For more information about the battle, click here)

A brief article appeared in the Lancashire Daily Post a short while after John`s death;

Private John Hayes, 43 Wellfield Road, Preston is among the killed. Seventeen years of age he formerly worked as a cleaner on the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway. He attended Christ Church Sunday School and Mission and was a member of Christ Church boy’s football team. Writing to Mrs Hayes under the date June 19th, Captain Wyn Booth says: – “He was by my side from the time the attack on the Germans started until he was hit, and as I saw a lot of him, I can tell you that no more plucky fellow ever lived. His end came very suddenly. We were lying in the open getting our breath before another rush forward, and I had joked with him saying, “How do you like this Hayes?” when he was struck through the head. Death was instantaneous. The only consolation I can offer you is that he died doing his duty to his King and country – more than that no man can do”.

After the war John`s parents would have received their son`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals together with his Memorial Scroll and Plaque in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country.

As Private John Hayes has no known grave his name was later inscribed on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

His name is also remembered on the Christ Church War Memorial in Preston, and on a family headstone in Preston Cemetery.christchurch war memorial christchurch war memorial panel


Photo credit: BereniceUK (GWF)

Rank: Private
Service No: 2771
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

* The CWGC website mistakenly lists his surname as HEYES.

Janet Davis
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