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Remembered Today:

9th Norfolk Regiment - POW


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I’m currently looking into 5 brothers from Bramerton in Norfolk for good friends who are the son and grandson of Charles Wilfred Hayes. The man I’m particularly interested in is Sidney Hayes. He’s the only brother with a surviving service record which has him down as a prisoner of war between 21/3/18 to 11/1/19. The unit diary includes him in a substantial list of wounded on 21/3/18 but no mention of his capture. I’d be really grateful if any members can provide any further background to this.

Incidentally the five brothers are:
L Cpl John Henry Hayes 2082 3rd Hussars
L Cpl Harry Samuel Hayes 14389 9th Norfolks died of wounds 21/9/16 sustained in the attack on the Quadrilateral and included in this excellent post:
Sidney Hayes 14390 9th Norfolks Prisoner of war 21/3/18 - 11/1/19
Charles Wilfred Hayes G/S 71604 24th Royal Fusiliers
Dennis Martin Hayes 16525 9th Norfolks
Many thanks


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I take it you've checked out his two cards at the International Committee of the Red Cross website. The first was created following a missing person enquiry from his wife, Mrs S.J. Hayes, of 11, St. Pauls New Terrace, Norwich, stating her husband was with "D" Company, 9th Norfolks, when he was reported wounded and missing on the 21st. The ICRC initially replied at the end of May 1918 that they had heard nothing from the German authorities. However at the start of August 1918 they did received a report that he had arrive "unwounded" from the Western Front and was at Parchim. He was captured at Lagnicourt.



From "A Short History of the 6th Division", edited by Major-General T.O.Marden 1920.

(Page 44 - 47) Some description of the ground and defensive organization of the Division will not be out of place here. The front held by the Division was generally on a forward slope opposite the villages of Queant and Pronville.


No Man’s Land averaged three-quarters of a mile in width. The whole area was downland and very suitable for the action of tanks. The position lay astride a succession of well-defined broad spurs and narrow valleys (like the fingers of a partially opened hand), merging into the broad transverse valley which separated the British line from the two villages above-mentioned. All the advantages of ground lay with the defence, and it seemed as if no attack could succeed, unless by the aid of tanks. A large portion of the front line – notably the valleys – was sown with 2-in. trench-mortar bombs with instantaneous fuses, which would detonate under the pressure of a wagon but not of a man’s foot. In addition five anti-tank 18-pounder guns were placed in positions of vantage. The wire was very broad and thick. The position would, indeed, have been almost impregnable had there been sufficient time to complete it, and had there been separate troops for counter-attack.


The ground was a portion of that wrested from the enemy in the Cambrai offensive of November-December 1917, but had only improvised trenches. A month’s hard frost in January had militated against digging, and though there were a complete front trench and reserve trench, the support trenches hardly existed, and dugouts were noticeable by their absence. The front was 4,500 yards in extent, the three brigades in line – 18th on right, 71st in centre, 16th on left – on approximately equal frontages. The depth from front or outpost zone to reserve or battle zone was about 2,000 yards. With only three battalions in a brigade, there was no option but to assign one battalion in each brigade to the defence of the outpost zones, and keep two battalions in depth in the battle zone. With battalions at just over half-strength, and with the undulating nature of the ground, the defence resolved itself everywhere into a succession of posts with a very limited field of fire.


A good corps line called the Vaux-Morchies Line had been dug, the nearest portion a mile behind the reserve line, and this was held by the Pioneers and R.E., owing to scarcity of numbers.




(Page 46) Reports from deserters that we were to be heavily attacked were persistent, and the Division stood to arms twice before 21st March. On 20th March aeroplane photos disclosed ammunition pits for seventy extra batteries opposite the divisional front, and when at 5 a.m. on 21st March the bombardment commenced, there was no doubt but that a real offensive had begun. Warning had been had been given overnight for all troops to be in battle positions by 5 a.m., but it came too late to stop working parties, and the reserve battalions of all brigades had marched ten miles before the battle commenced.


Fog favoured the Germans in that it prevented us seeing when the attack was launched, but every credit must be given them for the skill they evinced and the dash with which they pushed forward and brought up successive waves of attackers. By concentrating their efforts on the three main valleys, i.e. Noreuil Vally on our extreme left, Lagnicourt Valley in the centre and Morchies Valley on our extreme  right, they avoided much of the fire which they would have encountered on the broad spurs, and thus worked round and isolated the garrisons of the latter. For five hours the bombardment continued with tremendous force, first with gas and H.E. on back areas to cut communications and disorganize re-inforcements, later about 7 to 8 am with smoke and H.E. on the forward system. The intensity of it may be gauged by the fact that four out of five concealed anti-tank guns were knocked out by direct hits.


This bombardment annihilated the garrisons of the forward system, and few survivors came back to the reserve line.


The only authenticated accounts of a successful resistance in the front system were from the 71st Infantry Brigade, where both 9th Norfolks and 2nd Sherwood Foresters repulsed the first attack. By 10.30 a.m. the enemy had nearly reached Noreuil and had driven back the 59th Division on our left, leaving the left flank of the 16th Infantry Brigade in the air, while its right flank went shortly afterwards, as the enemy captured Lagnicourt, driving in the Sherwood Foresters in the valley. The 16th Infantry Brigade was gradually squeezed out towards the corps line, where at 4 p.m. parties from the Divisional Bombing School counter-attacked and drove the enemy out of trenches on the immediate left. The 71st Infantry Brigade , with its right flank secure, threw back a defensive flank south-west of Lagnicourt, and successfully prevented issue from that village to the high ground. The enemy broke into Skipton Reserve Strong Point, but were thrown out again by a counter-attack of Norfolks and Leicesters.


Coming up a subsidiary valley the enemy nearly drove a wedge between 71st and 18th Infantry Brigades, but the 2nd D.L.I. counter-attacked gallantly and kept them out till dusk. On the right of the 18th Brigade, however, the enemy advanced up the Morchies Valley, capturing the left trenches of the 51st Division on our right at about 10 a.m.


The 2nd West Yorks, reinforced by two companies 11th Essex, gallantly led by Lt-Col Boyall, D.S.O., who was subsequently wounded and captured, drove back three attacks issuing from our support line. The 18th Infantry Brigade held on till 7 p.m. when, in trying to withdraw, it suffered heavy casualties. The last company was not overwhelmed till 8.30 p.m. The 18th and 71st Infantry Brigades, therefore, maintained their hold on the ground Lagnicourt and the Morchies Valley all day, though the enemy had penetrated far in rear on both flanks.


When darkness fell the remnants of the Division were back in the corps line, together with three battalions of the 75th Infantry Brigade (25th Division), the remaining (page 48) troops of the Division not being strong enough to hold the line unaided. The 11th Cheshires were with 18th Infantry Brigade, 2nd South Lancs with 71st Infantry Brigade, and 8th Border Regiment with 16th Infantry Brigade.


The night was quiet, both sides preparing for the next day’s struggle.



If it's any help to you a couple of snippets from the local press in connection with Harry Samuel.


Eastern Daily Press, Friday October 13, 1916.


News has been received at Bramerton of the death of Lance-Corporal Harry S.Hayes, of the Norfolks, on the 21st September, from wounds in action. On Tuesday a memorial service was held in the Parish Church and many parishioners were present to show their last respect to this brave young soldier. The service was conducted by the Rev. E.H.Kinder (illegible) of Kirby Bedon. Harry Hayes was 35 years of age, and was the third son of Mr and Mrs John Hayes, of Bramerton. He joined Lord Kitchener’s Army with three of his brothers at the outbreak of war, and had been at the front thirteen months. He was very popular.


Eastern Daily, Press, Friday September 21, 1917.

(BMD Announcements - In memoriam)


HAYES – In ever loving memory of our dear son and brother, Lance-Corporal Harry S. Hayes, who died of wounds received in France, September 21st 1916.

          One year has passed since that sad day

          The one we loved was called away

          God called him home, we’ll not complain,

          But trust in heaven to meet again.

From his loving Father, Mother, Brothers, and Sisters.


Hope that helps,


Edited by PRC
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Many thanks Peter. I can't thank you enough. I certainly hadn't seen the Red Cross documents as this is the first time I've come across a POW in my research. The additional information

paints a vivid picture of what happened that day so I imagine his descendants will be bowled over with these discoveries.

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My pleasure.


I wouldn't read too much into it, but the receipt of the report from the German Authorities on the 2nd August 1918 does potentially throw up another twist. A significant number of the men captured in the various phases of the German Spring Offensive were held in the rear areas and forced to do work that directly aided the German war effort, freeing up men to keep the offensives going. Both doing this work and keeping them in danger was in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Combined with the prisoner reporting organisation being swamped by the sheer numbers captured, it also gave the German Government what would now be called "plausible deniability" - if the Red Cross didn't know who and where they were, they could not visit and complain about the violations. Downside was that the captured men couldn't receive red cross parcels, (both food and medicines) or cash to supplement their meagre diets, a diet probably kept to a minimum to keep them docile even while they were doing hard physical labour. Thus you will find graves from May through to early August recorded in the German rear areas, (at that time), of men captured in March and April. They had not lingered on in a Field-Hospital to evetually die of their wounds, but had succumbed to conditions - particularly the first wave of Spanish flu - that their weakened condition left them unable to survive. By the middle of July many of them were too exhausted to be of any further use and started to filter back into the formal Prisoner of War Camps in Germany, Austria and Poland. At that point the reports start to filter through to the Red Cross in Geneva. By that time many of the PoWs were little more than skins and bones and thus very susceptible to the diseases that were the scourge of such camps, thus prompting another wave of deaths.


If this was Sidney's experience then he did well to survive.


36 minutes ago, m0rris said:

I certainly hadn't seen the Red Cross documents as this is the first time I've come across a POW in my research.


I take it you realised that if you put the PA reference from the cards into the search box to the right of the card image you can see the document received from the German authorities. They are a fairly basic list - PA31252 adds he was born Norwich on the 29th October 1893, while PA41606 amends the birth place to Bramerton and gives his next of kin as Mrs. B. Hayes, of 11 St Pauls New Terrace, Norwich.


BTW - forgot to add last night that there is a picture of Harry Samuel on Picture Norfolk, the County image archive.



Hope that helps,


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One further very minor point to add is that the Red Cross records show that in November 1918 he was part of a large group of men transferred from the camp at Parchim to a camp at Friedrichsfeld. The date of transfer isn't clear from the records, but seems to have been at about the time of the Armistice. I *think* Friedrichsfeld was a transit camp, so it seems likely that the transfer of men from Parchim was in preparation for their repatriation to the UK. 

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Thank you both again for the additional information into the camps and conditions plus the extraordinary bonus of a photo is way beyond expectations. I'd be interested to hear if his nephew (a stirling 91) has any recollections of his uncle.

An interesting piece on Friedrichsfeld here: https://palmerww1powtrail.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/friedrichsfeld-pow-camp/


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Just updating my own records and noticed Sidney and Bessie had only married at the Norwich Registry Office on the 2nd March 1918 - he can't have been back long with his Battalion before the attack.


I see you are also interested in Dennis Martin Hayes, who you have down as 16525 9th Norfolks. Dennis doesn't have any surviving service records, but I see from his Medal Index card he first landed in France on the 23rd September 1915, unlike Harry and Sidney who went out with the original deployment of the 9th Battalion on the 30th August 1915. I've only had cause to look at 4 other men who went out on the 23rd and none have surviving service records, but I believe they did end up with the 9th.  It's a bit odd that a replacement draft was needed - the Battalion had been in France 3 weeks and hadn't been near the front line. However I believe by the time Dennis & his draft caught up with the Battalion in the Field, (War Diary entry 28th September 1915, "Draft of 25 men joined the Battalion"), they were a drop in the ocean of what was needed. The action  on the 26th left a butchers bill of 3 officer & 18 O.R's killed, 8 officers & 62 O.R's wounded and 2 Officers and 329 O.R.s missing.


I see also from the MiC that he had another service number, 320536, which comes from a territorial force renumbering range issue at the start of 1917. His MiC just shows him as Norfolk Regiment with that service number but the story is a bit more nuanced.


As well as the original three pre-war Battalions of the Norfolk Regiment, (4th, 5th and 6th), the Territorial Force set up in Norfolk also included a cavalry unit, the Norfolk Yeomanry (King's Own Royal Regiment). Like the Infantry Battalions the Norfolk Yeomany split into first line, second line and eventually third line units. The 1/1st Norfolk Yeomanry went out to Gallipoli, giving up its' horses to fight there as dismounted infantry. After evacuation I believe they briefly got their horses back to patrol against the warring tribes in the western desert, but were then quickly unhorsed and sent to man the defences on the Suez canal. During this time replacement drafts started to feed through from the Norfolk Regiment. Early in 1917 the Yeomanry received their new service numbers and would go on to fight in Palestine. However at much the same time as the renumbering, the 1/1sts dependence on it's home county regiment , like many other Yeomanry units, was recognised by converting it into another Battalion - in this case the 12th (Norfolk Yeomanry) Battalion, Norfolk Regiment.


To have had such a low number in the regimental renumbering Dennis must have already been serving with them, probably as a draft received in 1916.


Soldiers didn't routinely transfer between units, so the most likely explanation is that he was wounded \ had an accident \had health issues that required him to be medically evacuated back to the UK. On recovery he would have reported to a Regimental Depot and from there would have been posted to a UK only battalion for refresher training and fitness assessment. At some point he was selected to go out to Egypt.


Following the disasterous losses suffered by the British Army in the German Spring Offensive, the 12th Norfolks were one of many units rushed to France where it would see out the rest of the war.



Hope that helps,




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Peter - Many thanks again for the forensic level of detail. I'm certain his family will remain transfixed with these latest insights. I know it's come as some surprise that five brothers served and were involved in fierce fighting throughout the war. I spent many years sailing off the north Norfolk coast so I can understand your passion for the county.

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