Burwell soldier killed in Afghanistan honoured at memorial rugby match 10 years on

PUBLISHED: 15:51 14 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:51 14 January 2020

Private Robert Hayes was a former player at Newmarket Rugby Club Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Private Robert Hayes was a former player at Newmarket Rugby Club Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

A rugby match was held to mark 10 years since a soldier from Burwell died in an explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan.

Private Robert Hayes died in Afghanistan in 2010 Picture: MINISTRY OF DEFENCEPrivate Robert Hayes died in Afghanistan in 2010 Picture: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

Private Robert Hayes, a former player at Newmarket Rugby Club, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province in 2010.

The 19-year-old former Burwell Village College student completed his training in North Yorkshire in March 2009.

He was described by his family as a "gentle and caring person".

To mark a decade since his passing, his old club arranged a rugby match in aid of charity on Sunday (January 12) - raising just under £1,200 in the process for the Royal Anglian Benevolent Charity.

Players enter the field ahead of the match in memory of Private Robert Hayes Picture: SONYA DUNCANPlayers enter the field ahead of the match in memory of Private Robert Hayes Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

A minute's silence was held before 45 players took part in the game, as nearly 200 spectators watched on.

In a statement released by Private Hayes' family shortly after his death, they said he was living his dream as a soldier.

It read: "We are strengthened by the thought that he was with his comrades, doing the job he so dearly loved, when his life was taken.

"From childhood, Robbie had one ambition, to be a soldier.

Players from Newmarket Rugby Club attended the repatriation of Private Robert Hayes at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire in 2010 Picture: Cpl Steve Blake RLC/MoD Crown Copyright/PA WirePlayers from Newmarket Rugby Club attended the repatriation of Private Robert Hayes at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire in 2010 Picture: Cpl Steve Blake RLC/MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire

"He fulfilled his dream, he was described as a man of great determination and a credit to his platoon.

After training for Afghanistan he deployed to Helmand province in October 2009.

There his potential for promotion became noticeable.

"Although he had an enthusiastic and energetic personality, our son could just as easily behave with the manners of a gentle, reflective, caring person," they continued.

Private Robert Hayes' funeral was held in Burwell. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA  WirePrivate Robert Hayes' funeral was held in Burwell. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Private Hayes also excelled at boxing and won his battalion's boxing championships in 2009.

You may also want to watch:

Harvey Bell, club chairman and friend, said there was no shortage of people wishing to play Sunday's match.

Mr Bell said: "Robert was a lovely guy. He was so passionate about life.

"So many people wanted to play in the game - people that knew him, people that didn't.

"Thank you to everyone who attended and played. We hope you enjoyed it."

A Facebook group set up in his memory shortly after his death attracted messages of condolence from more than 1000 friends and family in a matter of days.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ely Standard. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Ely Standard