Located on the western wall of the interior of the Church of St Edmund the King in the City of London is a small brass plaque, behind glass, set into the dark, wooden panelling of the building. The memorial is dedicated one of the Titanic's first-class passengers, American Charles Melville Hays, who died in the sinking of the Titanic on 15 April 1912. Charles Melville Hays was a leading figure in the Canadian railway business and at the time of the sinking was President of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. He died in the sinking and his body was recovered from the North Atlantic and repatriated for burial in Montreal.
Charles Melville Hays was born in Rock Island, Illinois in 1856. In 1873, by the age of 17, he was working in the railway industry for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad company. He rose through lower managerial ranks at a number of railway companies before becoming General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada in January 1896. In 1904 he was appointed President of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and later, by 1909, had succeeded to the presidency of the parent company, the Grand Trunk Railway.
Biographies of Charles Melville Hays tell of his considerable business acumen but also of his ruthlessness in his business dealings. During his running of the Grand Trunk Railway he modernised and restructured the company, improving its efficiency and expanding the network, notably with the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. However, he would not see its completion loosing his life in the sinking of the Titanic.
The memorial is in the form of a small brass plaque, set into a wooden panel within the church interior. The plaque has the following inscription:
In memory of Charles Melville Hays. President of the Grand Trunk and Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Companies of Canada, who lost his life on April 15th 1912, by the foundering in mid-Atlantic, of the steamship "Titanic" through collision with an iceberg, while on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. A memorial service was held in this Church simultaneously with one at Montreal, on Thursday, April 25th 1912.
This tablet with the kind permission of the Rector and Churchwardens was placed here by the Directors of the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada in recognition of Mr Hays great services to the company, and of his high character in public and private life.
On 25 April 1912 a memorial service for Charles Melville Hays was held in Montreal and at London's Church of St Edmund the King. At the same time operations on the Grand Trunk Railway paused for five minutes of remembrance. Following his death the directors of the Grand Trunk Railway commissioned a memorial plaque, which was installed in the Church of St Edmund the King in the City of London.
- New York Times, The (1912) Notices: Died - Charles Melville Hays New York, The New York Times, 28 April 1912
- Regehr, Theodore D (1998) Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14 - Hays, Charles Melville Toronto: University of Toronto/Université Laval, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hays_charles_melville_14E.html