Sir Bertram Hayes was born in Birkenhead in Cheshire on 25th April 1864. His family moved to Goole four years later, when his father, Joseph Barry Hayes, was appointed secretary and general manager to the Goole Steam Shipping Co. Ltd.
He began his service in the Merchant Navy as a Junior Clerk at the age of 14 in the Goole Shipping Company. He went to sea in 1880 and gained his Master's Certificate in 1889 and his Extra Master's in 1897. In 1898 he joined the firm of Ismay, Ire and Company (parent company of the White Star Line), sailing as Mate aboard the Coptic. He was promoted to Master and commanded the Britannic, and during the Boer War he took troops to South Africa, carrying 37,000 troops in three years. For which he was awarded the Transport Medal.
He also served on the White Star Line ships Teutonic, Germanic, Sue Vic, Arabic, the Laurentic, in which he inaugurated the company's Canadian service in 1909, and the Adriatic.
During the First World War he was appointed Captain of the RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic. The ship was employed as a troop carrier across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In 1917 he was awarded a CMG for his services. On 12 May 1918, en route from New York to Southampton and while in the English Channel, the Olympic sighted the U-boat SM U-103. After opening fire, the Olympic turned to ram and sank the submarine. For this service, the first and only sinking by a merchant vessel during the First World War, he was awarded the DSO.
He was knighted in 1920 and created KCMG, between 1922 and 1924 he captained the RMS Majestic, which was then the world's largest ship, and retired as Commodore of the White Star Line in 1924. In 1925 he published his memoirs, "Hull Down, Reminisces of Wind Jammers, Troops and Travellers" by Sir Bertram Hayes. He was D.L. of the County Palatinate of Lancaster, 1931, a Director of Marconi International Marine Communications Company and Master of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, 1940.
He remained a bachelor, and died on 15 May 1941 aged 77 at his home in Liverpool.