Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Haydn Bretton Whitaker

Haydn Bretton Whitaker : Photograph of Haydn in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MRP/3B/006

Photograph of Haydn in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/3B/006

Haydn Bretton Whitaker : (L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'Transvaal', 'South Africa 1901', 'South Africa 1902'; 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; Delhi Durbar Medal 1911; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal; Meritorious Service Medal

(L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'Transvaal', 'South Africa 1901', 'South Africa 1902'; 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; Delhi Durbar Medal 1911; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal; Meritorious Service Medal

Haydn was born between January and March 1882 in Ipswich, Suffolk. His father was called Edwin and his mother was Margaret. We believe he had 3 sisters, although we don't know their names. Both his parents were actors; they toured under the stage names Edwin W. Bretton and Miss Maggie Lewis. His sisters followed them into the theatre. The family were members of the Church of England.

Haydn would have grown up moving from town to town as his parents toured. He may have decided he did not want this life because on the 6th August 1898 he joined the 5th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. This was a unit of the Militia. Haydn would have trained with them for a short period each year, but continued his civilian life at other times.

We don't know why, but Haydn decided to call himself Haydn Bretton. He gave his address as 4 Irwell Court, Deansgate Manchester and noted that his mother lived there. He was working as a labourer for a Mr Hilderchiner, a picture frame maker of Miller Street, Manchester. Haydn was 5 feet 4 3/4 inches tall and weighed 103 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. He lied about his age; he said he was 17 years and 1 month old.

Haydn was accepted into the Lancashire Fusiliers and given the service number 4567. It appears that he trained with them until the 20th October. He is recorded as 'present' for the 1899 training period, which we believe ran from the 3rd to the 29th July 1899.

For an unknown reason Haydn decided to join another Militia unit on the 17th October 1899. He joined the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 6749. Haydn had grown since he last enlisted; he was now 5 feet 6 3/4 inches tall and weighed 121 pounds. He was still working as a labourer, but now for Lewty Brothers of 67 Corporation Street, Manchester.

Haydn served with the 3rd Battalion until the 5th March 1900. During this time the Boer War was being fought in South Africa, and the British Army was sending more and more soldiers to fight in it. Haydn appears to have joined the Regular Army before he went to South Africa. He was given the service number 6029 by the Manchester Regiment.

We don't know when Haydn was sent to South Africa or what he did while he was there. He appears on the Medal Roll for the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, with a note that in July 1902 he was serving with the 16th Battalion of Mounted Infantry. This was a unit made up of Companies from several different regiments. Mounted infantry rode horses to quickly cover large distances, but dismounted to fight on foot with rifles.

There is a note in The Times newspaper from an unknown date in 1901 stating that Haydn, of the Mounted Infantry, Manchester Regiment, was at Springfontein, and dangerously ill from enteric fever.

After the Boer War Haydn continued to serve in the Manchester Regiment. In December 1911 he was a member of the 1st Battalion at Kamptee in India when they were sent to Delhi to take part in the Durbar celebrating King George V's coronation as Emperor of India. The 1st Battalion took part in the Durbar itself on the 12th, and the spectacular military parade on the 14th. It also provided many guards of honour for dignitaries. A total of 100 Delhi Durbar 1911 Medals were allocated to the 1st Battalion; although Haydn has one his name is not on the official roll of recipients.

After the Durbar was over Haydn and the 1st Battalion moved to Jullundur in the modern Indian Punjab. He was promoted from Lance Sergeant to Sergeant on the 3rd November 1912. Haydn went on leave to the UK during March 1913.

Haydn was a keen sportsman. He was a member of C Company and played for their cricket team, their football team and their tug-of-war team. All three teams won the battalion championships, in 1911, 1912 and 1913 respectively.

In March 1914 Haydn placed a notice in a New Zealand newspaper to try and find his mother's two brothers, who were living in that country. We don't know why he needed to contact them.

The First World War broke out in August 1914, and soon British Army units were sent from India to France to join in the fighting. Haydn and the 1st Battalion left India on the 27th August and arrived in France on the 26th September.

We don't know much about what Haydn did during the First World War. He was promoted several times and on the 2nd May 1917 he was appointed a Warrant Officer Class 1, with the job of Regimental Sergeant Major.

At some point Haydn was transferred from the 1st Battalion to the 13th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. They were serving in Salonika, Greece, against the Bulgarians and Austrians. Whilst he was there Haydn was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. This could be awarded for bravery whilst not facing the enemy, or for valuable service. This was published in the London Gazette on the 30th January 1919. There was no citation describing a particular action or date.

On the 1st July 1918 Haydn's Army service was recognised when he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. By this time the 13th Battalion had left Salonika for France.

We don't know how long Haydn stayed in the Army once the First World War ended in November 1918. He seems to have begun using his full name as a civilian. On the 15th July 1922 Haydn Bretton Whitaker married Minnie Greenfield at Shipley Parish Church in Yorkshire. Haydn gave his job as 'Postal Worker' and his address as 112 Higher Chatham Street in Manchester.

Haydn was granted a Civil Service Commission as a Postman in Manchester on the 6th March 1923.

We don't believe Haydn and Minnie had any children, and by early 1941 they lived at 24 Minehead Avenue in Flixton, Manchester. At some point that year Haydn was admitted to Abbotsford Road Hospital in Flixton; he died there on the 21st March. He was 59 years old.

Haydn left his medals to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment and they were presented to the Museum in 1954.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council