Corporal David James Hayden was the first RAF non-commissioned officer to ever win the Military Cross when he displayed outstanding courage in Iraq by carrying a fallen comrade through fierce gunfire.
It was the only Military Cross issued to the RAF for the entire Iraq campaign.
The Military Cross is the army’s third highest honour, behind the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and the Victoria Cross.
The incident for which Hayden received his medal occurred when his RAF Squadron Regiment was attacked during a patrol near Basra in 2007, during the first major foot patrol encounter involving the RAF Regiment since UK forces first arrived in Iraq in 2003. With around 50 enemy combatants firing on his position, Corporal Hayden volunteered to rescue Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard who had been fatally wounded in the firefight. Unaware that his comrade had already died, Hayden dashed across open ground under heavy fire and carried Beard’s body back to safety on his shoulders.
Hayden’s remarkable story, as well as his selfless modesty in playing down his own part, was covered widely in the press. Beard’s elder sister Victoria said: “It was entirely thanks to David that we were able to fly Martin home, and I can't thank him enough. David is an extremely modest man and has said he’s no hero, but he is a hero to everyone in our family.”
Hayden’s Military Cross, medal group and a mixed selection of other effects, including his wristwatch, ceremonial dress uniform, insignia, photographs, letters, newspaper clippings and two pictures were offered at Adam Partridge on September 11. Estimated at £30,000-40,000, the items also included a General Service Medal with ‘Northern Ireland’ and ‘Air Operations Iraq’ clasps.
The auction house said he was selling them in order to pay off his mortgage and support himself and his family.
At the auction in Macclesfield, a number of bidders pursued the lot before the gavel was eventually knocked down at £36,000. The saleroom said it could not release any information about the buyer.
Shortly after the sale, director and auctioneer Adam Partridge tweeted: “I'm an emotional wreck and proud to have been asked to handle the sale for David.”
In terms of comparable prices, another Military Cross group belonging to Sgt Trevor Coult of the Royal Irish Regiment, who was awarded the medal for his bravery in a machine-gun ambush in Baghdad, sold for £29,000 at Lockdales in March 2016.
The buyer’s premium at Adam Partridge was 20% including VAT.