Heyworth, Brian Kay

Brian Heyworth was the only son of Lawrence Heyworth and Florence Heyworth, the daughter of James Kay, and came to “Toyes” as an Exhibitioner in Short Half 1920, from the Leys prep school in Hoylake.  He became a House Prefect in January 1924, a School Prefect and Senior Prefect in September 1924, and left in July 1925 from Sixth Book, Senior Division.  He rowed bow in three winning Burne Cup boats, 1923, 1924, 1925. He went up to Oriel College, Oxford, in 1925, and got a Second Class in Literae Humaniores in 1928, and the Harmsworth Law Scholarship in 1928. He was called to the Bar in 1929, practising in Manchester from 1930.  On August 9th 1932 married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Allan Collinge. He became Private Secretary to the Treasury Solicitor in 1936, and Legal Assistant in 1937.

A keen member of the Territorial Army, Brian had served with the East Lancashire Regiment from 1925 and in 1940 he served in France with the 1st (Buckinghamshire) Battalion, as second-in-command, with the rank of Major. The 1st Battalion went across to France in January 1940.  On 17th May that year Brian took over command of the battalion and prepared for the defence of Hazebrouck, part of the defensive action which allowed the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk in the face of German advance through France.  The situation was fast-moving and Brian and his colleagues had great difficulty in discovering which and how many miscellaneous troops were coming under their command.

Heyworth was killed during the afternoon of Tuesday 28th May 1940.  The Bucks Battalion ‘War Chronicle’ tells what happened:   “It was found that ammunition was seriously short, but, as over half the attached GHQ troops scarcely knew how to fire a rifle, their ammunition was withdrawn and they were unceremoniously consigned to the cellars. At this time, too, it was agreed between Majors Heyworth and Viney that as the remnants of the Battalion were obviously not now holding up the advance, and the rifle companies had been over-run, added to which brigade had ordered a move out the day before, all who were left should march out and make for the coast that night, provided that resistance could be maintained until then……… at about 1630, the artillery started again. This time it was not mortars but heavier stuff, and in quick succession the top, then the second floor had to be evacuated. The chapel wing was now useless. The enemy had the exact range. There were many wounded by now, and Major Heyworth decided to go across to the GHQ building to see if it was worth evacuating there.”

He never returned and was not seen again.

Heyworth was thirty-three years old when he died. He received a posthumous mention in Despatches (August 18th 1942) for his actions at Hazebrouck.  The long delay before his Mention came through suggests that no one was witness to his death.

He and his wife had had two children; a son, Michael Collinge Heyworth (G 1946-1951), and a daughter, Sue. He is buried in IV.B.20 of the Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery.

In 2004 Michael Heyworth published “Hazebrouck 1940″, the story of his father’s wartime career and death and includes many of Heyworth’s letters.  A copy of his book is in the College Archive and can be consulted on application to the Archivist, Suzanne Foster (sf@wincoll.ac.uk).

A memorial to the First Buckinghamshire Battalion (TA) and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry was unveiled at Hazebrouck in May 2007. It is placed on the building currently on the site of the old orphanage used as the final defensive position in the defence of the town. A copy of the order of service for the dedication of the memorial is held in the College Archives and information about the memorial can also be found here http://www.lightbobs.com/men-of-steel—hazebrouck-remembered.html.


War: World War 2

  • Surname: Heyworth
  • Forenames or initials: Brian Kay
  • House: B
  • Years in School: 1920-1925
  • Rank: Major
  • Regiment: Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry
  • Date of Birth: 26th March 1907
  • Date of Death: 28th May 1940
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner E1
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery: Grave IV.B.20