Joseph has a wealth of wartime memories

Joseph Hayes
Joseph Hayes

Euxton war veteran Joseph Hayes will celebrate his 90th birthday next week.

He has lived a long and interesting life, which has taken him from school to a ‘can lad’ in the early days of the ROF at Euxton, through to miltary service during the Second World War when he helped to guard Field Marshal Montgomery.

Back in civvy street he retired as a driver for Bass Breweries in Leyland in 1989.

Joseph, whose birthday is on Wednesday, March 19, lives with his wife Muriel, 67, from Chorley, in Primrose Hill Road, Euxton.

Just several years ago, he sat down with a typewriter and put together his war memoirs.

He called it: “When I Were In’t War By 14322663 Trooper J Hayes. Formerly of The Inns of Court Regiment and A. SDN The First Kings Dragoon Guards.”

The Inns of Court Regiment has a unique place in history as a result of its ancient links with the law.

From its very origins until well into the 19th century, it was recruited and officered almost exclusively from the legal profession, drawn from the barristers, attorneys, notaries and their clerks and students practising in the area of the Inns of Court comprising Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn.

In 1940, it became the armoured car unit of 9 Armoured Division. On D-Day C Squadron landed in France and went into action. The remainder of the regiment followed soon afterwards and was continuously in action,

Joseph recalls: “As the old rhyme goes, I’ll always remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.

“I remember it for a different reason, it was the day I had to join the army in 1942.

“Conscripted, not volunteered. I wasn’t looking forward to joining the army. I’d never been away from home on my own before.

“I suppose really I should have registered as a conscientious objector, I hated the idea of having to kill someone.”

Joseph remembered when he was sent to The Warwickshire Yeomanry, near Newmarket.

“Why, I’ll never know, they weren’t armoured. I only stayed with them for a short time. I remember a chap there with a violin, he’d play things like The Flight of the Bumble Bee and The Lark Ascending, both lovely pieces of music which he played superbly.

“Once again back to Barney, then shortly off to Virginia Waters in Surrey to join The Defence Company, Tactical Group, 21st Army Group HQ. I was to be one of the drivers for the five Staghound armoured cars, which formed Monty’s bodyguard. The company was formed from various regiments, our CO was a very nice Lancashire chap.

“One day I went down to the railway station to collect my portable wind up gramophone which I’d had sent from home.

“On my way back to camp, which was quite a distance, I thumbed a lift. An old

Rolls-Royce stopped and gave me a lift.

“The driver, an elderly man, was complaining about the quality of wartime petrol and that his car didn’t run very well on it.

“He turned out to be AE Mathews, who appeared in many films around then.”

It was after D Day that Joseph arrived in France.

“Wherever we looked we could see thousands of German POWs. I think they were going to England on the boats we’d come on. As we travelled through France, once chap kept asking the Frogs what I thought was “Deserve”.

“It turned out he was asking for eggs, ‘des ouef’ something like that.

“The regiment I was to join The Inns of Court Regiment, was advancing so fast I couldn’t catch them up. They were a peacetime regiment made up of barristers, solicitors etc.”

Among other vehicles, Joseph drove a Daimler scout car called a Dingo.

“My first job was to take round the rum ration for our B Squadron.

“My first contact with Jerry was a few days later.

“We drove through a field of turnips on our way to reach a road which led up to the River Maas. There once was a bridge over the river there, but it had been destroyed.

“On the other side of the river there was a building which was in the hands of the Germans.”

The Germans started shelling the road and Joseph and co beat a hasty retreat.

“I was in my Dingo one day same place when an 88 exploded under the car, lifting it up in the air and down again with a bump.

“The cars had armour plating underneath as protection against mines, so no harm was done, except to a couple of bottles of wine I had in the front toolbox.

“Another 88 crashed through someone’s front door, along the passage and came to rest in the kitchen.

“When the disposal people came to disarm it, they found no explosives in it, but a lot of rubbish to make the weight up and a message saying ‘This is the best we can do’.

“No doubt slave labour from occupied countries.”

In Holland, Joseph recalled: “At night I saw something shooting up into the sky with flames shooting out from behind. When it gained a certain height, it veered off in some predetermined direction. Little did I know that I was watching V Rocket bombs being launched.”

Joseph also served in Palestine with The First Kings Dragoon Guards.

“Our Squadron Leader was Major John Courage, son of the brewer,” he said.

“He was a real gentleman, he didn’t want to be saluted all day, he said once a day was enough. He had a patch over one eye, he’d lost it in the desert campaign.

“He smoked a short pipe which was coked up so much you couldn’t get a finger in it.”

Joseph and Muriel have a son Philip who is married to Michelle and two grandchildren Jacob 17 and Molly 13, 13. Sadly, they lost their first grandchild Jessie to leukaemia.

Family and friends will gather for a pub party to celebrate Joseph’s 90th, another milestone for him in a rich life.