- Name: Reginald Frederick Johnson HAYWARD
- D.O.B: 17th June, 1891
- D.O.A: 22nd March, 1918
- D.O.D: 17th January, 1970
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Acting Captain, 1st Battalion The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment), 7th Brigade, 25th Division
East of Bapaume, France 21-23 March 1918
21-23 March 1918
The First World War 1918
On 21 March 1918 the Germans launched their Spring offensive against the section of Front manned by British Third and Fifth Armies running from Roeux on the River Scarpe east of Arras in the north to the River Oise west of La Fère in the south, as the crow flies a distance of about 50 miles, but over double that on the ground. 6th Corps held the British Line south of Arras. From the previous evening, German troops had begun probing British positions at this point. 13th Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) were in the line from St-Léger, just east of the road south from Arras to Bapaume, along the road south to Mory. It was here on the morning of 21 March 1918 that Temporary Second Lieutenant E F Beal gallantly repelled a German incursion, helping to stabilize the situation until he was killed. However, German pressure was relentless and the British were pushed back. As the enemy advanced steadily towards Bapaume, 1st Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment was moved to the north of Frémicourt, a village east of Bapaume and just south of the Cambrai road. 4th Corps was trying to hold a line between Vaulx and Morchies to the north of the road. It was for his gallantry in the fighting which followed that Acting Captain R F J Hayward was awarded the VC. The surviving Wiltshires, three officers and 54 NCOs and men, were gathered at Bihucourt, north-west of Bapaume, on 24 March. Hayward had been evacuated with the other wounded the night before. When the German offensive had opened on the 21st, 8th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment mounted an unsuccessful counter-attack at Doignies to try and contain the enemy advance south of the Bapaume-Cambrai road. They were then withdrawn west to Vélu Wood. By the 23rd, the German advance had reached this point and the Glosters, together with 10th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment (see Temporary Captain J R Gribble VC below), was ordered to cover the further withdrawal of British forces. It was in these actions that Temporary Captain M A James distinguished himself. Bapaume itself was abandoned to the Germans.
For most conspicuous bravery in action. This officer, while in command of a company, displayed almost superhuman powers of endurance and consistent courage of the rarest nature. In spite of the fact that he was buried, wounded in the head, and rendered deaf on the first day of operations, and had his arm shattered two days later, he refused to leave his men (even though he received a third serious injury to his head), until he collapsed from sheer physical exhaustion. Throughout the whole of this period the enemy was attacking his company front without cessation, but Captain Hayward continued to move across the open from one trench to another with absolute disregard of his own personal safety, concentrating entirely on re-organising his defences and encouraging his men. It was almost entirely due to the magnificent example of ceaseless energy of this officer that many most determined attacks upon his portion of the trench system failed entirely.