Superb 1908 IGS (Mohmand 1933), 1936 IGS (NWF 1936-37) and WW2 Prisoner of War Medal Group - Cpl. C. Hayler, Royal Tank Corps / 4th Royal Tank Regiment
- Product Code: MM-5225
- Regiment: Royal Tank Regiment
- Era: WW2 Availability: Out of Stock
An amazing and interesting second world war prisoner of war escapee medal group awarded to 7882810 Corporal Cecil 'Syd' Hayler, Royal Tank Corps / 4th Royal Tank Regiment.
1908 India General Service Medal (Clasp - Mohmand 1933) named to 7882810 Pte. C. Hayler. R. Tank C.
1936 India General Service Medal (Clasp - North West Frontier 1936-37) named to 7882810 Pte. C. Hayler. R. Tank C.
1939-45 Star unnamed as issued
Africa Star unnamed as issued
War Medal unnamed as issued
EIIR Imperial Service Medal named to Cecil Hayler
Dunkirk Medal unnamed as issued
The first six medals are swing mounted together for wear with the Dunkirk medal mounted separately.
There are also five foreign commemorative medals which are mounted together and two badges.
The medals are in good condition and are all housed in a hinged wooden box.
Cecil Hayler was born in January 1910 in Portsmouth but moved to Sheffield at a very early age. After leaving school at the age of 14 he was employed in the motorcycle repair trade but at the age of 21 his employment was terminated.
He enlisted into the Royal Tank Corps on the 23rd April 1931 and served in India until he returned to England in November 1937 where he was employed as a Convoy Driver at COD Chilwell until war was declared.
He went to France with the 4th R.T.R. 'B' Company and returned via Dunkirk in 1940.
In February 1941 two squadrons of the 4th R.T.R. arrived in North Africa. 'B' Squadron were sent to the Italian colony of Eritrea, arriving in time to join the capture of Agordat, knocking out 10 enemy tanks. They then advanced to Keren which was captured after a fierce battle lasting 2 months.
After Keren, 'B' Squadron pushed on to Asmara and Massarwa, which was entered on the 8th April 1941, bringing this campaign to a successful end.
They joined the rest of the regiment in North Africa to serve with the Desert Rats where fighting took place at Halfaya, Capuzzo and Sollum but they were fighting a losing battle. Many lives were lost and many prisoners, including Cecil Hayler, were taken on the 17th June.
The first six months in captivity was spent in Benghazi, North Africa, then into Italy and in January 1944 he was marched with other prisoners in column, many miles until in April, he escaped from the column and eventually managed to get to a small village called Dobareuth in Belgium, where he was joined by the Americans.
At this time he was in very poor health and spent several weeks in an American hospital in Verdun.
With the group are photocopies of several letters sent between Cecil 'Syd' Hayler and a Lena Fischer, who was the daughter of the Mayor of Dobareuth, much later and in one of the letters Cecil recounts some of his memories.
The letter, dated 23 March 1987 reads:
'Dear Frau Fischer,
It was a lovely surprise to receive your letter early in February. It arrived just as I had gone into hospital for a few weeks, so it is only now possible for me to answer it. My daughter Christine is writing for me, as my hand is not so steady these days. She was born just a year after the events at Dobareuth took place, and had never heard my story, so it has been interesting to hear all my memories called back by your letter. My wife Audrey, my son Sidney, now 47, my other daughter Barbara, 38, who lives in Australia will all hear my adventures now for the first time. I have always considered the whole episode to be so improbable as to be almost unbelievable.
I thought you might be interested to hear a little about the events which led me to Dobareuth in April 1945. I had been a prisoner of war since 1941, but had been held in Stalag IIXB near Dresden (at Lamsdorf) only since autumn 1942. Life at Lamsdorf was not pleasant. My recollections are mostly of the endless cold weather and always being hungry. Apart from that I suppose we were not badly treated.
Towards the end of January 1945, the Russians were getting rather close to the camp, so most of us were evacuated on foot towards the West, under guard. My diary shows we passed close to Dreseden on the North side of the city from Gorlitz on 10 February to Meissen on 17 February. I remember the heavy bombing during the nights as we took shelter in a church.
I was with mechanist Staff Sergeant George Chittock. He was not well, so we marched together. I supported him for much of our journey, all on foot, across Germany to Zeigenhain, west of Bad Hersfeld, where we were imprisoned again in another P.O.W. camp from 13-23 March. By the time we arrived we were like automatons, able to think of nothing beyond the next step or the next meal. Then we were marched on again, back east by a different route.
We were outside Hof on Friday 13 April when george and I managed to escape from the guards. This was just two days before the incident at Dobareuth.
During those two days, one of our hiding places was discovered by one of the guard dogs. Fortunately he was well fed, he sniffed at us then went away without raising an alarm. Later we had to crawl within sight and sound of a lookout post manned by Hitler youth. Their rifles were draped over a bush. They were not very diligent, or they would have seen us.
An elderly lady in a mill just outside Dobareuth took pity on us, and fed us with hot porrige in her kitchen. While we ate in silence, two armed German soldiers came into the kitchen. They ignored us!
It was very shortly after this that we came across large parties of Belgian and French prisoners of war. Their guards has disappeared before the approaching American troops, and left e P.O.W’s to fend for themselves. They put themselves at my disposal, and I arranged for the fair distribution of whatever rations were available. Reconnaissance parties were organised, to discover the deployment of enemy and friendly forces. By 1600 hrs 15 April we knew that the Americans were at Hirschberg, only 4 Km away, and were expected in Dobareuth early the following morning.
Realising that any resistance by the villagers would have been futile, and led to unnecessary bloodshed, I went with a Belgian interpreter, M. Jean Colle, to ask the Burgomaster to tell his people to capitulate. White flags were to be shown at all buildings, and the remaining armed German guards in the village were disarmed and taken prisoner. The Burgomaster, your father, was also instructed to arrange bread & provisions for the freed prisoners of war and advancing allied forces.
By 2130 hours, white flags were showing everywhere. When eventually the Americans did arrive, there was no resistance and therefor no loss of life – but you can probably remember this for yourself. Afterwards I spent some time in the American forces hospital at Verdun before being returned to England.
It is 27 years since I wrote to your father. I never did get a reply from him. Of course I did not know that Dobareuth went back to the Russians, that would explain why my letter took so many years to be forwarded to his new home. He probably felt by then it was too late to reply.
It was kind of you to reply after all this time. Please accept my belated sympathy for your father’s death. He was a good, wise man. Your letter brought back many memories of those terrible times. I am happy that you, his daughter, now live in freedom, as all my family do. That was what the war was all about. I do hope somebody can translate this for you.
My warmest thanks & best wishes
Cecil Hayler (Known as “Syd”)'
Cecil was demobbed in York in August 1945. He returned to his convoy driving at Chilwell eventually, until 1957, when owing to the partial closure of the depot, he became a postman.
He was a founder member of the 4/7th R.T.R. association and a very early member of the Dunkirk Veterans.
A really fantastic group!
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