Born in 1918, near Richmond in London, in 1939, just shy of his 21st birthday, he was called up for war with the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal and in 1940 he was captured near Dunkirk, where he and about 30 other soldiers were forced to endure brutality and deprivation for a very long period of time. He was then a prisoner of war in Germany-occupied Poland for almost the whole war. To relieve the boredom during some the ‘leisure hours’ of our incarceration, a great deal of time was spent discussing the deviousness of politicians all over the world and their abuse of power.
Released in Czechoslovakia in 1945, after one of the longest forced marches in history as his captors retreated from the advancing Red Army. He became a member of the Communist Party on his return and was for many years CP branch secretary in the Barnes, Sheen area. He was also a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and a CND member who took part in the first Aldermaston march. He raised money for the paper at Christmas bazaars and remembers canvassing for new readers around Barnes, Mortlake and Sheen in south-west London.
Resident of Totnes in South Devon in his later years, Hailey re-engaged over the struggle against the Blair/Bush Iraq war in the Totnes Peace Group.
In 2004, he published a book, ‘A Good Pair of Feet’, which describes in great detail, the hardships he and the other men faced as prisoners of war. Dedicating the book to his wife Eve, he recalled how, throughout their marriage, she helped him restore faith in humanity after having experienced such inhumane treatment. The captivating publication gives you a real sense of what he went through; humorously, but also entirely practically, he pays tribute to his feet, which supported and carried him through days, months, and years of trekking and surviving through Germany and other bordering countries.
Charles Hailey reached his 100th birthday on December 30th 2018, still a daily reader of the Morning Star. His family got him a bundle of papers from the day of his birth to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, the Morning Star, while a venerable 88, hadn’t been born then!
Sources: Troubled Time, April 19, 2003; Home Instead/West Country News ITV; Herald Express, 24 October 2018; Morning Star, 12 January 2019