Thomas Reuben Haydon enlisted in the First World War in Orange on 19 April 1918. When completing his attestation papers Thomas claimed to 18 years old, citing his date of birth as 16 January 1900.
According to the Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent of 18 March 1919 Thomas was just 16 when he volunteered to serve.
Thomas was born in Stuart Town in 1901 to Peter Haydon and Annette nee Bastardi, who had married in Wellington in 1888. Thomas’ father, Peter, a well-known identity in the district, was recognised as “one of the best bush men in Australia”.
Thomas was educated at Summerhill Creek Public School and later worked as a labourer. He embarked SS Field Marshal in Sydney on 19 June 1918 for overseas service. On 10 July he was admitted to the ship’s hospital, where he spent nine days with a bout of tonsillitis. Thomas disembarked in London on 26 August and was marched in to the 11th Training Battalion at Sutton Veny and allotted to the 2nd Battalion Reinforcements.
In October 1918 Thomas was transferred to Artillery Details and marched out to the Reserve Brigade Australian Artillery at Heytesbury. The following month Thomas proceeded to France, joining the 1st Artillery Division at Rouelles.
Following the declaration of peace on 11 November 1918 Gunner Haydon continued to serve on the Western Front. In early February 1919 he was in Belgium, when, on 6 February, he died. His military records simply state:
Died of asphyxiation in the field
No other details are known of Thomas’ death. He was the third WWI serviceman from the Orange district to die post-armistice. He was 17 years old.
Thomas Reuben Haydon is commemorated on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 21 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte TR Haydon”; it was donated by Cleve Hutchinson. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Thomas’ brother, Leslie, also served in WWI; he was a Lieutenant with the Royal Flying Corps.