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D-day veteran becomes world's oldest skydiver at 101 and 38 days | World records

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Verdun Hayes breaks record by completing tandem skydive with three generations of his family in Devon

Press Association
Sun 14 May 2017 15.40 BSTLast modified on Tue 28 Nov 2017 00.19 GMT
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A D-day veteran who jumped 15,000ft from a plane has become the oldest person in the world to skydive – at the age of 101 and 38 days.

Bryson William Verdun Hayes, known as Verdun, broke the world record on Sunday, completing a tandem skydive with three generations of his family at an airfield in Honiton, Devon.

As he touched down, the former Royal Signals lance corporal said “hooray” and added that he was feeling “absolutely over the moon” at completing the challenge.

The great-grandfather tried skydiving for the first time when he reached 100, but breaking the British record for the oldest skydiver was not enough for him.

Hayes, who said a parachute jump was something he had wanted to do since he turned 90 – but was talked out of it by his wife, who has since died – was determined to take the world record and beat its previous holder, Canadian Armand Gendreau who skydived in June 2013 aged 101 and three days.

Asked how he was feeling before Sunday’s jump, Hayes replied with a stoic “all right” and said he was looking forward to the experience.

He took to the skies with 10 members of his family at Skydive Buzz in Dunkeswell, all raising money for the Royal British Legion. The youngest skydiver was Stanley, 16, Hayes’ great-grandson, while his grandson Roger, 50, son Bryan, 74, and great-granddaughter Ellie, 21, were also among those who took the leap.

Hayes (left), with his family members before the jumpView image in fullscreen
Hayes (left), with his family members before the jump. Photograph: Skydive Buzz/PA

Ahead of the skydive, 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.”

Hayes, from Croyde, Devon, served in the army during the second world war and was presented with a Légion d’honneur for his heroic actions in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and in Normandy, France.

He was named Verdun after his father, Joseph Hayes, who served in the first world war as a sapper with the Royal Engineers and who fought during the Battle of the Somme, wrote home to his pregnant wife, Mary, from the frontline suggesting they call their child Verdun after the 1916 battle.

Hayes served as a signaller and wireless operator for the Royal Signals during the second world war. He returned to Normandy in 2016 as a beneficiary of the Royal British Legion’s Remembrance Travel arm.

Hayes during his jumpView image in fullscreen
Hayes during his skydive, in which he became the oldest person in the world to jump 15,000ft from a plane. Photograph: Skydive Buzz/PA

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

He said: “How I came home from world war two I do not know. 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.”

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said Hayes would be celebrating with a glass of champagne.

He said: “We are very proud of Verdun’s achievements and his family’s support for the Royal British Legion and the money raised recognises the service and sacrifice made across all generations of the British armed forces.

“The money raised will help support individuals and families from across the generations of our armed forces community.”

Members of the family have separate online donation pages but Hayes, who hoped to raise £1,000, has already beaten his target and the current total on Virgin Money Giving stands at more than £1,600.

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