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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Honourary Captain Denis Hayes M.B.E. Leinster Regiment

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII was appointed commander in chief of the Leinster Regiment in 1919. In 1922 he visited the 1st Battalion, Leinster Regiment in Fort George as part of his tour of India. While there, he was photographed with officers of the battalion. A copy of this famous picture is now held within the National Army Museum’s collection. Today we look one of the officers in this photo. Along the top row, second from the right, we see Captain Denis Hayes M.B.E. Captain Hayes started his career as a Private but worked his way up the ranks to Honourary Captain and served during the Fourth Ashanti War. This is his story.

Officers of 1st Battalion, Leinster Regiment. Courtesy National Army Museum.

Denis Hayes was born in County Cork in 1868. He enlisted in the Leinster Regiment as a Private around 1886. He would have served overseas and at home before he was selected along with 25 other men of the Leinster Regiment to take part in the Fourth Ashanti War (1895-1896). Ashanti had turned down an unofficial offer to become an official protectorate of Britain. The Ashanti King refused to submit to the British, however a delegation was sent to London to try and appease the British with gold and rubber, however this was too late and the British had sent a column of 2000 men to capture the Ashanti capital, Kumasi. The British conquered the capital without a shot fired. Now a Sergeant, Hayes received the Ashanti Star for his service in the campaign.

In 1899, Sergeant Hayes married Clara Lucas. They lived in Birr Barracks after Sergeant Hayes was posted to the 3rd Battalion, which was based in the barracks at Birr. They had several children, Lynda, Murgenta, Doran and Ethel. Their children being baptised in the garrison church.

On 1 July 1905 Sergeant Major was granted the Long Service & Good Conduct medal for 18 years service. The medal bearing the profile of Edward VII.

Quartermaster Hayes was commissioned as a Honourary Lieutenant and Quartermaster on 4 September 1909. His promotion was celebrated in Birr Barracks as recorded in the King’s County Chronicle on 16 September 1909, ‘Compliment to a Local Officer. A few evenings ago the members of the Sergeants’ Mess, 3rd Leinster Regiment, Birr, held an “at home” for the purpose of doing honour to Lieut and Quartermaster Hayes on the occasion of his promotion from Sergeant Major rank. A large company were present in the Mess, including a number of ladies, Captain Fox, and other officers. At an interval in the proceedings an interesting function took place, the members of the Mess having determined in some practical manner show their appreciation. The presentation took the form of a sword and belt, and the ceremony was performed by Quartermaster-Sergt Le Bat, who referred to their pleasant associations in the past, and the pleasure with which Mr Hayes’ promotion was received by the Sergeants’ Mess. Lieut Hayes, in reply thanked them one and all most sincerely for the gift, and said he regretted in one sense the severing of his connection with the Sergeants’ Mess, but he was not going for from them. He had always the hearty co-operation of the Permanent Staff in his work of training the men for their athletic tournaments, and he thanked them for the honour conferred upon him that night’. In addition to his presentation of a sword and belt, he was also presented with a brass and copper spirit kettle from the Corporals and duty men of the depot staff, Leinster Regiment.

Kettle presented to Denis Hayes on his promotion.

In 1911 he was part of the detachment of the 3rd Battalion, Leinster Regiment to be sent to the coronation of George V. For his participation he received the 1911 coronation medal. He was further promoted to Honourary Captain on 1 July 1919. He also later received a M.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) Upon disbandment of the regiment on 31 July 1922 at Windsor Castle, Captain Hayes was posted to the East Lancashire Regiment. He retired on 14 May 1923.

The 1939 Register records Denis and Clara as living at 40 Albert Grove, Portsmouth. Captain Hayes died on 5 June 1944, the Portsmouth Evening News recorded his death on 7 June 1944, ‘HAYES – On June 5th 1944, at 45 Carmathen Avenue, at his son-in-law’s residence, Captain Denis Hayes, M.B.E., late Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians), beloved husband of Clara Hayes. No mourning, at his special request. Ich Dien.’

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