D-Day hero in charity bid to break world skydiving record ... aged 101

101-year-old D-Day hero Bryson William Verdun Hayes, who is aiming to become the world's oldest tandem skydiver. Photo: British Legion/PA Wire
101-year-old D-Day hero Bryson William Verdun Hayes, who is aiming to become the world's oldest tandem skydiver. Photo: British Legion/PA Wire

A D-Day hero is aiming to become the world’s oldest tandem skydiver – at the age of 101.

Bryson William Verdun Hayes, known as Verdun, will take on the 10,000ft skydive with three generations of his family.

The veteran, from Croyde, north Devon, will be aged 101 and 37 days when he attempts the feat for charity on May 13.

Currently, the world record is held by Armand Gendreau who skydived in June 2013 aged 101 and three days.

Mr Hayes, who served as a lance corporal in the Royal Signals during the Second World War, is raising money for the Royal British Legion.

“The current world record is held by a Canadian called Armand Gendreau,” Mr Hayes said.

“No offence to him, but I want to bring that record back to the UK where it belongs. I want to bring the record home.

“Last year was the first time I had skydived and I loved it. I must have got a bit of a taste for it because it just made me want to do it again.

“I wanted to skydive for many years but I was always talked out of it by my family – I wanted to do it when I turned 90, but I was talked out of it by my late wife.

“When I hit 100 I just thought ‘I said that once I got to 100 I would make up my own mind’. Last year’s skydive was an amazing experience.”

Mr Hayes holds the British record for being the oldest tandem skydiver from a height of 10,000ft after his jump last year.

He will be joined by 10 people, including three generations of his family and his doctor, when he attempts to gain the world record at Skydive Buzz in Dunkeswell near Honiton, Devon.

His daughter, Lin Tattersall, said: “He’s made up his own mind that he wants to do it again, and I am extremely proud of the reasoning behind it.”

Mr Hayes was named Verdun following the wishes of his father, Joseph Hayes, who served in the First World War as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers.

The soldier, who fought during the Battle of the Somme, wrote home to his pregnant wife Mary from the front line suggesting they call their child Verdun after the 1916 battle.

Mr Hayes himself served in the Army during the Second World War, notably in D-Day, and was a signaller and wireless operator for the Royal Signals.

He returned to Normandy in 2016 as a beneficiary of the Royal British Legion’s Remembrance Travel arm.

During the war, Mr Hayes sustained shrapnel injuries to his ribs and hands after being involved in an explosion that killed his friend, Sgt Edgar Robertson.

The pair had been digging trenches together in Choux, France, when a German shell exploded close to them, killing Sgt Robertson.

“How I came home from World War Two I do not know,” Mr Hayes added.

“I was so near to the edge of everything. I lost any amount of friends in no time at all really. I just didn’t think I would ever return home.”

Mr Hayes, who was attached to 7th Seaforth Highlanders, 15th (Scottish) Division, landed on Gold Beach a few days after D-Day.

The great-grandfather was later awarded the Legion d’Honneur. After the war, Mr Hayes worked in his family’s building business.

Claudia Kelly, community fundraiser for the Royal British Legion for north Devon, said: “The fearless spirit of the special Second World War generation lives on through people like Verdun.

“His fundraising efforts will help to ensure that we keep alive the memory of the fallen, and support the future of the living.”