Biography

Birth date: 08 February 1892
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Ballan
Death date: 28 August 1955
Death place: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Heidelberg
Final rank: Major
Service number: 137 - First World War, 1914-1918
V85723 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • 8 Battalion
  • Dunster Force
  • 1 Works Company
  • 15 Works Company
  • 8th Australian Infantry Battalion

Percy Lay was 22 years old when he signed his attestation papers at Ballarat to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force just weeks after the outbreak of war in August 1914. He served with the 8th Battalion on Gallipoli and the Western Front, and by the beginning of 1918 he had been promoted four times and awarded the Military Medal, the Military Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and the French Croix de Guerre. One of his superior officers described him as "always a volunteer for any work which entails danger and his coolness and courage under fire are noticeable".

In January 1918 Lay was offered a posting with Dunsterforce in the Middle East. In his diary he expressed his sadness at leaving his battalion, but subsequent entries soon focused on his activities in Persia, including learning Persian, Russian, and sword-fighting. On one occasion, he had to determine whether a local headman, Sheik Ali, was hiding among a group of 40 women at Hamadan. Lay arrived back in Australia during May 1919 and continued military work at the Domain camp in Melbourne. He left again in September with the Special Service Unit to escort deportees overseas.

For the next twenty years, Lay lived and worked on his farm 'Lucerne Farm' near Alphington, Victoria. He enlisted in the Army again on 24 June 1940. Rising to the rank of major, he was posted to several training and garrison units before being transferred to the 1st Australian Works Company.

Following his return to civilian life again in 1945, Lay returned to Alphington. Percy Lay died at Heidleberg, Victoria on 28 August 1955.

Rolls and Awards

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Private
  • Date of embarkation: 19 October 1914
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : French Croix de Guerre

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Military Cross

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Mention in despatches

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Distinguished Conduct Medal

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Distinguished Conduct Medal

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Distinguished Conduct Medal

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : French Croix de Guerre

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Military Medal

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Military Cross

  • Unit: 8th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Collection Items

Art

Captain Percy Lay

Captain Percy Lay, MC, DCM, MM, 8th Battalion Australian Imperial Forces, served through the Gallipoli campaign as a private. He reached France with the Battalion early in 1916 and fought with it on the Western Front until the end of 1917. At Bullicourt in 1917 he gained the MM and was wounded; the...

ART03184

Private Record

Lay, Percy MC, DCM, MM, C de G (Captain, b.1892 - d.1955)

Collection relating to the First World War service of Captain Percy Lay MC, DCM, MM, C de G. Collection consists of a diary compiled from pocket diaries and written back at base camp or in the billets, with entries dated 19 October 1914 to 31 March 1918; a black and white photocopy of diary and a... Maker: Lay, Percy

PR83/058 (With records)

Digitised Collection

Diary of Percy Lay, 1914-1918

Diary relating to the First World War service of Captain Percy Lay, 8th Battalion. The diary was kept by Captain Lay between 19 October 1914 and 31 March 1918, and covers his journey to Egypt aboard the S.S. Benalla, training in Egypt and service with the 8th battalion in Gallipoli and the Western...

RCDIG0000455

Transcript of diary of Percy Lay, 1914-1919

Handwritten transcript of a diary relating to the First World War service of Captain Percy Lay, 8th Battalion. This transcript was made by Captain Lay on his return to Australia and covers the dates of his service, from 19 October 1914 to 11 October 1919. The additions to the original diary made...

RCDIG0000456

Newspaper article relating to Percy Lay, 1956

Photocopy of a newspaper article relating to the First World War service of Captain Percy Lay, 8th Battalion. The file consists of a photocopy of an article by Frank Green and Ernest W Latchford, titled 'Percy Lay: A Modern D'Artagnan', published in Stand To, Jul-Aug 1956.

RCDIG0000457

Timeline

Date of birth 1892-02-08
Date of embarkation 1914-10-19
Date of recommendation honour or award 1916-09-09
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-01-20
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-05-17
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-09-27
Date of recommendation honour or award 1917-10
Date of death 1955-08-28