Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Portsmouth has always been unusual in that it has never had a resident aristocracy which meant that during the Great War there were very few officers above the rank of lieutenant in the army who hailed from the Borough. Those officers that did come from Portsmouth had usually been promoted through the ranks. Major Herbert Henry Hayes was one of them.
The Hayes family were late settlers in Portsmouth not having arrived until the late 1890s when William and Ann Hayes brought their children from West Ham in London where they had lived for many years. As William's occupation was that of an engineer it seems likely that it was work in the Dockyard that brought him south. He was later killed at the Battle of Jutland aboard HMS Fortune.
At the 1901 census the Hayes family were living at 4 Sutherland Road, off Jessie Road, in Southsea. They consisted of William and Ann, born in 1867 and 1866 respectively and their children William (b. 1887), Ethel (b. 1889), Herbert Henry (b. 1893), Grace (b. 1895) and Gladys (b. 1897). They were all born in London, mostly in West Ham.

In 1905 Herbert Henry began a three year course at the Secondary School in Victoria Road North in preparation for a Dockyard Apprenticeship, which he obtained in 1908. Besides being a good student he was outstanding in sports and games, and took great interest in manual work. He made exceptionally good progress in the Dockyard School, and gained a Royal Scholarship and a Whitworth Exhibition. He joined the Royal College of Science, and in 1913 entered the Electrical Department of the City and Guilds College, where, to quote the Registrar of the College, "He gave evidence of ability and zeal far above the average and gave promise of becoming an ornament to the engineering profession."
He was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery in October, 1914, having enlisted a month earlier. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1915, and embarked for France with the 58th Siege Battery in 1916. A further promotion, to Captain, followed in 1917 and another to Major in 1918, he was twice mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's Despatches - May 17th, 1917, and December 23rd, 1918.
Previously, towards the end of 1916 Herbert had married Alice Catherine McMurray in Portsmouth. She is thought to have been pregnant in 1918 and gave birth to William Hayes who died in infancy.
Major Hayes was killed by a shell on October 1st, 1918, at Fins, near Cambrai. The War Diary of his Siege Battery records that:-
The battery came into position on the ridge in front of Homecourt on night of Sept 30. The B.C. post was set up in a tent in front of the football trench. At 10am the enemy began shelling with 4.2 H.Vs and one burst in the rear of the tent. The splinters riddled the tent and killed Major H H Hayes, the CO almost immediately. He was buried at Fins cemetery at 3pm. The Battery was with 58 Army Brigade RGA V Corps
Thus ended a short and brilliant career of great promise to the engineering world. The General of the 5th Corps wrote of him:- "Ever since he has commanded his Battery, no man could have done more to improve its efficiency, and his personal gallantry was always outstanding."
Further Information
The photograph above is taken from a memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School from which extracts also appear above.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Major H.H. Hayes, Royal Garrison Artillery, 409th Siege Battery, date of death, 01/10/1918, buried in the Fins New British Cemetery, Sorel-Le-Grand (Grave ref: VI.E.1.).
Herbert Hayes is remembered on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
August 2014
With additional information from John Lawson