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Fenton Henry Lay M.M. (1890-1961)

Citation

“Fenton Henry Lay M.M. (1890-1961),” Wyndham History, accessed October 20, 2017, http://wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/2162.
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Title

Fenton Henry Lay M.M. (1890-1961)

Subject

Lay, Fenton Henry

Publisher

Wyndham City Libraries

Date

1914

Contributor

Bill Strong

Format

text

Language

eng

Type

Text

Biographical Text

No 529  Corporal Fenton Henry "Barney" Lay M.M.

Fenton Henry Lay was born in 1891 to Robert Lay and Jane Williams at Ballan in Victoria.

The birth of their four boys was registered in Ballan, and the birth of their daughter Elsie was registered at Surrey Hills.

The children were:

  • William Herbert John Lay - (1888-1963)
  • Fenton Henry Lay - (1890-1961) A.I.F. No.529
  • Norman Ivan Lay - (1895-1954) (A.I.F. No.38040)
  • Ronald Sylvester Lay - (1897-1969) (A.I.F., No.6535)
  • Elsie Winifred Jean Lay (1902-)

Fenton didn’t appear to like his Christian name, as throughout the Great War he was known as Barney or Henry. Then after the war, he reversed the order of his Christian names, and is recorded as Henry Fenton Lay.

Pre War

His father, Robert Lay, was a farm labourer, and the family moved around the west of Melbourne as the children were growing up.  The four boys were born at Ballan, and their sister was born at Surrey Hills.  Between 1905 and 1909, Robert Lay worked as a Boundary Rider for John Percy Chirnside at The Manor in Werribee.  From 1912 to about 1916, they lived at Crook Street in Bacchus Marsh, and then moved to 136 Bay Street at Brighton in about 1918.

War Service

Fenton Henry Lay was one of the first to enlist in the A.I.F. after war was declared on 4 August 1914.  At the age of 23 years, he enlisted in the A.I.F. at Bacchus Marsh on 11 September 1914.  The Bacchus Marsh Express, 22 May 1915, p.3. 

He then went to Broadmeadows for his initial training, which lasted three weeks, and on 1 October 1914, he was appointed as a Private with the 14th Battalion, who had just relocated to the Broadmeadows Camp, on the same day.

[The 14th Battalion, along with the 13th, 15th and 16th Battalions formed the 4th Brigade, under the command of Colonel John Monash.  After training in Egypt, they were then sent to the Gallipoli Campaign.]

The 14th Battalion were presented with their colours at a parade in St Kilda on 13 December 1914, and then continued making preparations to embark.  On 22 December 1914, they travelled at full strength to Port Melbourne, where they embarked on H.M.A.T. Ulysses A38. Private "Barney" Lay sailed as a member of the 14th Infantry Battalion, "D" Company, and their first port of call was King George’s Sound in southern Western Australia.

Their next stop was a two day break at Colombo on 13-14 January 1915, and then they sailed via Aden, Ishmali and Port Said, before arriving at Alexandrina in Egypt on 31 January 1915.  After disembarking, they were moved by train to their new camp at Heliopolis. 

Training continued in the desert for two months, and the Battalion was then ordered to embark. They sailed from Alexandria in two ships on 13 April 1915, H.M.T Seang Choon and H.M.T. California, both bound for an undisclosed destination.

On 15 April 1915, they arrived at Lemnos, and anchored in the harbour.  Over the next few days the men practiced embarking down rope ladders into ships boats, wearing full marching order - unaware that this was how they would land on the beach at Gallipoli.

During this break at Lemnos, on 19 and 20 April 1915, 17 men were transferred to the Stationary Hospital at Lemnos, as temporarily unfit for service.  
[It's believed that Private Lay would have been one of these men].

At 9.30 a.m. on 25 April 1915, the H.M.T. Seang Choon sailed from Lemnos Harbour with the 14th Battalion, and arrived off Gaba Tepe on the Gallipoli Peninsular at 5 p.m.  Their first job was to assist loading the many boat loads of wounded men who were being evacuated, and that work continued until midnight.  The majority of the Battalion then landed at 11.15 a.m. on the second day of the campaign, and formed part of a General Reserve under the Command of Colonel Monash.

Private Lay’s War Record states that on the second day of the Anzac Campaign, as his Battalion were landing, he was admitted to hospital at Mudros (on the island of Lemnos), suffering with influenza.  This would mean that he was one of the men who disembarked before the Battalion sailed to Gallipoli.  Once he had recovered he then re-joined his Battalion on Gallipoli.

In a letter home from Gallipoli dated 4 August 1915, Private Ted Marsh reported that "Barney Lay was away with the sappers"Melton Express, 18 September 1915, p.3.  
The practice of men being attached to a Sapper Company, to help establish new defensive positions and communication links, was quite common.

"Barney" Lay had two letters home published in the local papers, and in one of them he describes his experiences with the Sappers of the Divisional Miners' Company, who were creating a system of tunnels under the Turkish Lines at ANZAC. Melton Express, 8 January 1916, p.4.

Private Barney Lay was evacuated from Gallipoli on 17 September 1915, after he had been treated by the 4th Field Ambulance Company for diarrhoea.  He was transferred back to the 3rd Australian General Hospital at the port of Mudros for further treatment. Two days later he was able to be discharged back to his unit.

[The 4th Field Ambulance Company was responsible for 'Second Line' casualty evacuation from 'First Line' Regimental Aid Posts (RAP) in each respective Battalion].

Because of the appalling conditions in the trenches at Anzac, Private Lay was again evacuated to the 3rd Australian General Hospital at the port of Mudros on 8 September 1915. This time he was suffering with dysentery and pneumonia, and required three weeks of treatment before he was discharged to the Details Company on Lemnos, and then shipped back to his Battalion.

"Barney" Lay referred to this time in hospital in another letter home, which was published. "I got a touch of influenza, and they brought me away to a little Field Hospital on a little island. I don’t know how long they will keep me here". Melton Express, 8 January 1916, p.4.

The evacuation from Anzac occurred over several weeks in late December 1915.  After a short break on the island of Lemnos, the Australian troops returned to Egypt to prepare for the next phase of the war.

The 14th Battalion left the peninsula at midnight on the night of 18 December 1915.  They embarked at Gallipoli Cove on the H.M.S. Hazel, which took them to the Port of Mudros.  Once they had landed, they moved to the N.Z.& A. Division Camp at Mudros East.

The unit war diary reflected that it was exactly one year since they had departed from Melbourne, and that only four officers and 370 Other Ranks of their original strength were still with the battalion.

On 21 December 1915, just after the evacuation from Gallipoli, Private James O’Leary wrote home from Lemnos, and reported that he had seen Barney Lay, and that he was camped near him. Kyneton Guardian, 15 February 1916, p.2.

The majority of troops returned to Alexandria in Egypt from Mudros Island on  1 January 1916; Private Lay returning on the H.M.T. Cardiganshire.

After disembarking, the Battalion travelled by train to Moascar, and then marched to their new camp near the Ismailia Railway Station. The routine of training and exercises continued, but Private Barney Lay reported sick again on 18 January 1916.

He was treated by the 4th Australian Field Ambulance at the Moascar Camp, before being transferred to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital, suffering with diarrhoea.  He was then treated for gastric influenza, and was able to return to his Battalion on 27 January 1918.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the Battalion returned to Egypt.  While there, the AIF expanded and was reorganised. The 14th Battalion was split and provided a core of experienced soldiers to form the 46th Battalion.  The 4th Brigade was combined with the 12th and 13th Brigades to form the 4th Australian Division.

As part of this re-organisation, on 3 March 1916, Private Lay was transferred to the 46th Battalion which was being formed at the Tel-el-Kebir Base.  Several days later he was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

In late April, the 46th Battalion moved to the Serapeum Railhead, and went into the front line trenches.  They remained there until 17 May 1916, when they were relieved by the 52nd Battalion.  After returning to Serapeun, the Battalion began preparations for an expected move to France.

The 46th Battalion embarked from Alexandria on 2 June 1916 per H.M.T. Kinfauns Castle, and arrived at Marseilles six days later.  From there they travelled by train to Bailleul, and then marched to their new billets at Outtersteene, near the Belgian border.

The Battalion moved to Sailly on 3 July 1916, and went into the front line to relieve the 4th Battalion. They remained in their sector for 8 days, until they were relieved by the 56th Battalion. The only casualties were three wounded.

They went back into the front line on 4 August 1916, south of Pozieres, and remained there until 14 August, when they relocated to the town of Albert.

The Battalion went into the front Line between 29 August and 2 September.  Conditions were very bad, and the men suffered from the damp and cold.  They had no dug-outs and little shelter from enemy fire.  The unit war diary records that the men in the trenches were waist deep in water and mud.

They were relieved on 2 September 1916, and relocated to a rest area at Reninghelst.  It was at this time that Corporal Lay was appointed as an Acting Sergeant (without pay).

On 31 October 1916, the Battalion were resting in billets at L’Etoile, when Sergeant Lay was admitted to hospital with serious dental problems. This meant that he reverted in rank, back to Corporal.

He was treated by many medical units for his case of pyorrhoea (a serious condition that causes an infection in the bones, as well as the ligaments that support the teeth.) Among those who treated him was the 12th Australian Field Hospital at Dernancourt, the N.Z. Army Hospital, the 112th Stationary Hospital and the 10th General Hospital at Rouen.

After receiving treatment, he was discharged from hospital to the 4th Australian Divisional Base Depot. (A.D.B.D.) at Etaples in France on 21 November 1916.  He then re-joined the 46th Battalion at the Mametz Brigade Camp, on 27 January 1917.

On 7 April 1917, the Battalion moved into the Front Line.  In a joint operation with the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, they attacked the Hindenburg Line, immediately east of Bullecourt. They were preceded into battle by four tanks, but none of them were able to meet their objective of destroying the wire defences.  Then owing to an overwhelming counter attack by the enemy, the 46th battalion were forced back to Vraucourt. Forty three men were killed in this battle, and 201 were wounded. Among the wounded in this First Battle of Bullecourt was Corporal Lay, who received a gunshot wound to his left thigh on 11 April 1917.

He was treated by No 56 Casualty Clearing Station and admitted to the No 1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen.  In need of further treatment, he embarked from Harve per the Hospital Ship Lydia on 23 April 1917, and was admitted to the Military Hospital at Eastleigh in England on the following day.

On 30 April 1917, the Army wrote to Corporal Lay’s father (at Main St, Bacchus Marsh) advising that his son, "Cpl Lay, of the 46th Battalion" had been wounded.  He immediately wrote back to the Army requesting further information on his son's injury, and to advise that they were now living in Werribee.

Corporal Lay had recovered sufficiently to be discharged from hospital on furlough on 5 June 1917, and to then report to the Pernham Downs Base.  One day later he reported sick (with skin condition V.D.20 - Gonorrhoea) and was admitted to the 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital at Bulford, Wiltshire.

Back in Australia, the Lay family advised the Army that they were changing their address on 19 July 1917. They were moving from Watton Street Werribee, to Norfolk Street. Moonee Ponds.

After treatment, Corporal Lay was discharged from the 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital (1st A.D.H.) at Bulford on 9 August 1917 (after 65 days of treatment), and transferred to the Convalescent Training Depot. His skin condition recurred, and he was readmitted to hospital on 13 August 1917 for a further 26 days.

On 17 September 1917, Corporal Lay marched in to the Depot at Perham Downs at Salisbury where he was classified as B1A3 (fit for overseas training camp in two to three weeks). Nine days later he was classified as B1A4 (fit for overseas training camp when passed dentally fit), but his skin condition reoccurred again.

He was treated at the 1st A.D.H. at Bulford for 69 days, between 8 October 1917 and 15 December 1917, and then marched in to the No1 Commonwealth Depot at Sutton Veny where he was classified as A3 (fit for overseas training camp, to be hardened, prior to re-joining unit overseas)

On 21 December 1917, Corporal Lay marched in to the Overseas Training Brigade at Sandhill Camp, Longbridge Deverill, near Sutton Veny, to begin preparing for his return to France.

He sailed from Southampton on 7 February 1918, and marched in to the Australian Infantry Base Depot, Havre, France on the following day.  By 16 February 1918, Corporal Lay had re-joined the 46th Battalion, who were now near in the front line at Moat Farm.

On 5 April 1918, the 46th Battalion had just moved back to the reserve trenches near Lavieville and Dernacourt, when they came under heavy enemy shell fire.  Captain Milne of "C" Company was badly wounded, and about 25 other casualties occurred.  One of those was Corporal Lay, who received a gunshot wound to his right shoulder.  He was immediately treated by the 13th Australian Field Ambulance, and on the following day he was admitted to the 6th General Hospital at Etaples. His military record states that this was the second occasion when he was wounded.  After ten days of treatment, Corporal Lay was transferred to the 10th Convalescent Camp at Etaples, to recuperate.

The Army wrote a brief letter to the Lay family at Greeves Street in St Kilda on 17 April 1918, to advise them that their son had been wounded for a second time.

After time at the Convalescent Camp, Corporal Lay was able to be discharged to the No. 5 Rest Camp at La Havre on 23 April 1918, to recuperate further.

On 25 April 1918, Corporal Lay joined the Australian Infantry Base Depot (A.I.B.D.) at Havre, but before he could rejoin his unit, he was re-admitted to hospital for a further month of VD treatment. This was between 8 May and 6 June 1918.

On 18 June 1918, Corporal Lay was discharged to his unit, and he arrived back with the 46th Battalion on 29 June 1918. The 46th Battalion were then in the Front Lines near Daours, on the Somme.  As part of an offensive action to straighten their front line, the 46th Battalion participated in a raid on the evening of the 7-8 July 1918 at Sailly-le-Sec.  The 45th Battalion were on their right, and the 54th Battalion on their left.  They achieved their objective, and captured an enemy post, along with 32 prisoners and five machine Guns. Casualties included 25 enemy killed, and for the allies; five killed and 37 wounded.

One of those injured being Corporal Lay, who was wounded for the third time.  He received a gunshot wound to his left index finger, and was treated the 47th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), the 4th Australian Field Ambulance and the 7th Field Ambulance.

In need of further treatment, he was admitted to the 11th Stationary Hospital at Rouen on 11 July 1918, before being discharged to duty on 16 July 1918.

His father was contacted by the Army on 19 July 1918, to advise them that their son had been wounded for a third time.

Corporal Lay was able to re-join the 46 Battalion on 26 July 1918.  They had been relieved from the line, and were now at their rest camp, about 10 miles from the front.

On 31 July 1918, the 46th Battalion relocated from Allonville to Cagny, prior to their going into the Line. Then on 6 August 1918 the Battalion were attached to the 10th Brigade along a line west of Vaire and Hamel Wood.  After the men were equipped for a big attack on 6 and 7 August 1918, the unit war diary stated that "...the lads are looking forward with great keenness to a “stunt” on a large scale...".   Then at 4.20 a.m. on 8 August 1918, "...the Australians embarked on their biggest adventure since landing in France...".  They achieved their objective, dug in, and held their ground until they were relieved on 10 August by the 34th Battalion.

This battle later became known as The Battle of Amiens or the Third Battle for Picardy.  It marked the beginning of the Hundred Days Offensive, which turned the tide and ended the Great War in Europe.

It was on this first day of the Battle, in which Corporal Lay's actions were recognised, and led to him being awarded a Military Medal. His citation reads - "For conspicuous gallantry and leadership during the advance to the Red Line (East of Hamel (east of Corbie)) on the morning of 8th August 1918. During the advance, the platoon was held up by very heavy machine gun and rifle fire from Valerie Wood. He led his section forward with great dash and worked round the Wood capturing the garrison. This very fine piece of work greatly assisted the line to go forward and undoubtedly saved many casualties. The leadership and courage displayed by this NCO throughout the operation was of the highest. He inspired and was a very fine example to his men".

Source: Recommendation for the Military Medal [http://www.bacchusmarsh.avenueofhonour.org.au] (Auth 4th Australian Div Routine Order 2233 dated 5/9/1918)

On 13 August 1918, the Battalion was relocated in new lines east of the village of Harbonnieres. Then on 15 August 1918, they went into the Front Line near the village of Lihons, until they were relieved by the 83rd French Regiment on 24 August 1918.

During this relief/change over, the enemy put down a heavy gas bombardment, mixed with shells of all calibres. The Battalion War Diary describes it as "...the most severe gas bombardment that this battalion has yet undergone...".  Over the long period of exposure, the gas had been absorbed into the men’s clothing, and as they marched out of the line, the gas began to take effect.  The main gas used was Yellow Cross, and it had been delivered via shrapnel shells. (Yellow Cross shells contained the feared mustard gas.  Blue crosses contained arsenic, white crosses were phosgene, and green crosses were chlorine gas)

By 25 August 1918, the 46th Battalion had relocated to their new camp at Longpre.  Once the men had settled in, the effects of the earlier gas attack began to make themselves felt. Over 150 men required medical treatment for their eyes, and the Medical Officer had to call for assistance from several Field Ambulances.  As a precaution, all clothes were taken off the men, and put through a fumigator.

Corporal Lay was amongst the more serious cases, and he was treated by the 12th Australian Field Ambulance and the 48th Casualty Clearing Station. This was the fourth occasion when he had been wounded.  On 1 September 1918, he was admitted to the 41st Stationary Hospital at Amiens, before being evacuated to the Military Hospital at Exeter in England on 7 September 1918.

The Army wrote to his father (at Greeves St in St Kilda) on 26 September 1918 to advise the family that their son Cpl Lay had been admitted to Military Hospital at Exeter in England after being gassed.  They wrote again on 10 October 1918 to advise that Corporal Lay was convalescing in England.

When the Armistice was announced on 1 November 1918, Corporal Lay was still being treated, but he was discharged on leave two days later.  After his leave he was to report to the No 1 Commonwealth Depot at Sutton Venny.

As part of his recovery Henry Lay then spent time at the A.I.F. Rest Camps at Devonport and St Budeaux (in Devon), before he embarked to Australia per H.M.A.T. Berrima on 13 January 1919.  He was able to get an early return because he had been classified as "1915 Personnel".

After disembarking at Melbourne on 17 February 1919, Corporal Lay was discharged from the 3rd Military District on 18 April 1919, to resume his civilian life.

Post War

The Army wrote to Mr R Lay to advise that their son had been awarded a Military Medal by the King, for Bravery.  Details had been promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 61, 23 May 1919, p 22.

In 1920, Henry Fenton Lay married Ettie Emma Lay (from Ballan), and they moved into 12 Byron Street, Footscray.  This was to be their home for all of their married life.  Henry was employed as a labourer, and his wife Ettie remained at home.

They had three children:

  • Geofrey, 
  • Marian, and 
  • Audrey. 

Sadly, Audrey died on 12 May 1940, at aged 11 years.
The Age, 18 May 1940, p.15.

His wife Ettie Lay died in 1944, and Henry survived her until 1961, when he died at Footscray, at the age of 70 years. A photograph of his and his wife’s gravestone and RSL grave plaque - https://billiongraves.com/grave/Fenton-Henry-Lay/12193004#/

In 1988, his daughter Marion Attwell Outch applied for, and received, her deceased father’s ANZAC Commemorative Medallion. http://www.anzacs.org/medallion.html

Fenton Henry Lay has a tree planted in his honour (No N143) in the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour.  Another biography can be found at: http://www.bacchusmarsh.avenueofhonour.org.au/people.php?personId=_41718161&submit=display&menu=0&num=280&searchName=&searchDate=

Notes:
The name "Lay, H" first appeared in the Werribee Shire Banner,  Roll of Honor, 5 August 1915, p.3

His name appears on the Werribee Shire Oak Board as "LAY, F H".

The 46th Battalion was raised in Egypt on 24 February 1916. Part of the 12th Brigade, of the 4th Australian Division.   They fought at Poziers in August 1916; Bullecourt in April 1917; Messines and Passchendaele in late 1917; Dernancourt in April 1918; Amiens in August 1918; and the Hindenburg "Outpost Line " on 18 September 1918.

Gas Shells – The Last Fifty Miles by Adam Wakeling, p.6. (Penguin/Viking)

 Medals & Entitlements:

  • Military Medal
  • Victory Medal – received in September 1922
  • British War Medal – received in August 1921
  • 1914 Star – received in December 1920

Newspapers

Trove - http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/

 

Bibliography

Service History - http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/
Embarkation List - https://www.awm.gov.au
CD Pioneer Index Victoria 1836-1888
CD Federation Index Victoria 1889-1901
Births - http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/
Werribee Cemetery - http://home.vicnet.net.au/~wfhg/
Hospitals in France - http://www.1914-1918.net/hospitals.htm
46th Battalion - https://www.awm.gov.au/unit/U51486/
8th August 1918 - http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/battle-of-amiens

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