Devon D-Day Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday By Skydiving For Charity

“Actually, I wanted to do it 10 years ago, but I got talked out of it. But I was determined that on my hundredth birthday I would definitely do the jump.” So said D-Day veteran Verdun Hayes after he fulfilled his long-standing ambition to skydive from 10,000 feet. Hayes, who made the jump

Hayes, who made the jump raising money for the North Devon Hospice, is believed to have become the UK’s oldest skydiver. The current Guinness World Record for the oldest tandem male parachute jump is held by Canadian Armand Gendreau, who was 101 years and three days when he made the jump in 2013.

Hayes said, “It was first class, really beautiful. It was better than I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Coming out of the airplane and going into freefall was lovely.” Asked whether he was scared, he said, “Not in the least. I had a good man with a parachute behind me.”

Hayes was the only one in his family who was unafraid! The daredevil centenarian – who celebrated his 100th birthday on 6 April – made the jump alongside his two great-grandsons, who said they were honored but terrified to join him! His daughter, Lin Tattersall, said, “I’m really shaky – I’ve got a cup of hot chocolate here but I wish it was something a bit stronger!”

Tattersall said Hayes was “always doing something he shouldn’t be doing” and despite her initial shock, she was “secretly proud” of him. “I said: ‘No Dad, I don’t think you should do it’ but over the months he’s convinced me that he really wants to do it,” she said. Of her father, and her grandsons, who jumped with Hayes, she said, “I’m wishing him all the best, and I’m very proud of him too, and my grandsons. In the UK he is the oldest man to do this skydive – so he’ll get the record and he’ll enjoy it but I’ll enjoy it when it’s over and they’re all on the ground.”

Verdun, who was named for the World War One battle which his father survived, was called “truly inspirational” by the North Devon hospice for which he was fundraising. Now he has sights set on next year’s skydive. At 101, he could qualify to take the Guinness World Record.

Such bravery should not come as a surprise. The aged skydiver was part of the Allied forces that landed in Normandy and pushed the Germans all the way back into Germany. Hayes landed on Gold Beach and fought in one of the toughest battles on D-Day.  On this beach British infantry and commandos secured a vital foothold in Europe, despite fierce German resistance.

It is good to see that he has not lost his courage, even att he age of 100.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE