No.6535 Private Ronald Sylvester LayRonald Sylvester Lay was born in 1897 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- ?)
Ronald's 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.
Before enlisting in the A.I.F. in 1916, Ronald served for two years with the 69th Battalion Senior Cadets at Werribee. They held meetings at the Werribee Drill Hall, and were supported by Captain Chirnside. In April 1913, Mr George Chirnside donated money to the Battalion so that they could purchase gymnasium equipment and musical instruments for their band. Werribee Shire Banner, 10 April 1913, p.3.
Ronald Sylvester Lay took his Oath at Brunswick on 8 June 1916 and went to the Broadmeadows Military Camp for his initial training. This was completed on 3 August 1916, and he was appointed as a Private with the 21/14th Battalion Reinforcements.
While waiting to embark, Ronald spent a short amount of time at the Glenroy and MacLeod Camps in Melbourne.
Aged just 18 years old, Private Ronald Sylvester Lay embarked from Melbourne per HMAT Nestor A71 on 2 October 1916 with the 14th Battalion 13th to 23rd Reinforcements. After a voyage of six weeks, they disembarked at Plymouth in England, and marched in to the 4th Training Battalion at Codford on 16 November 1916.
Like many other new arrivals, he caught influenza, and was admitted to the Battalion Hospital for treatment between the 28 December and 6 January 1917.
After three more months of training, Private Lay sailed to France via the port of Folkstone on the 13 March 1917, and arrived at the 4th Australian General Base Depot (AGBD) at Etaples on 17 March 1917. He remained there until 5 May 1917 when he was taken on strength with the 14th Battalion.
The Battalion at this time were out of the Front Line at Ribemont, undergoing training and exercises. On 17 May 1917 they had relocated to new billets at Doulieu, and on 1 June 1917, they were under canvas at Crucifix Corner, preparing to go back into the Front Line.
They were ordered into the line at Messines on 10 June 1917, and sustained heavy enemy shelling, until they withdrew to the Subsidiary Line on 13 June 1917. There next action was on the 29th June 1917 when they relieved the 1st N.Z. Infantry Battalion at Ploeqsteert Wood, St Yves. They were relieved from the Line on 8 July 1917.
The Battalion’s next move was to Vieux Berquin on 20 July 1917, and they set up camp at Neuve Eglise. After a long spell of wet weather, Private Lay reported to hospital on 7 August 1917, as sick, but he wasn’t admitted.
On 8 August 1917, the Battalion relieved the 16th Battalion in the Line at Wyschaete, and remained there until 14 August.
Private Lay again reported sick on 17 August 1917 and was treated by the 4th and the 13th Australian Field Ambulance, and the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station where he was diagnosed with P.U.O. (pyrexia of fever of unknown origin). He was then sent on to the 16th General Hospital at Le Treport - which was later operated by the US Army.
Following his treatment, Private Lay was sent to the No. 3 Convalescent Depot. Base Detail at Boulogne on 6 September 1917, and then transferred to the 4th Australian Divisional Base Depot at Le Havre on 10 September 1917. After a wait there, he was able to re-join the 14th Battalion on 7 October 1917, while they were resting at Steenvoordeat.
On 12 October 1917, the 14th Battalion marched to Belgian Battery Corner, at Ypres, where they went into the Divisional Reserve to relieve the 45th and 48th Battalions on the Front Line. They remained there under heavy enemy fire, until they were relieved on 16 October 1917 for a four day break, before going back into the Line at Westhoek Ridge, until 23 October 1917.
After withdrawing from the front, the Battalion relocated to Predefin Bergeneuse, where they rested and received further training, until 17 November, when they moved to Fressenville, via Abbeville, via Lebiez, Saulchcy, Canchy, and Miannay.
The Battalion remained at Miannay until 6 December 1917, when the moved to the Amiens area over the Christmas period. On 19 January 1918, they relocated again; this time to Butterfly Farm Camp, and remained there until the end of the month.
On 21 January 1918, Private Lay was admitted to the 13th Australian Field Ambulance who were then located at Kemmel. He required treatment for V.D.G. [Venereal Disease, Gonorrhea]. He received treatment from the No 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station on 23 January 1918, and was admitted to the 39th General Hospital at Havre on 25 January 1918.
After a treatment there - lasting 85 days - he was discharged to the Australian Infantry Base Depot on 15 April 1918, and was able to re-join the 14th Battalion on 24 April 1918. They were resting at Foret de Mai, after having just been relieved from the Front at Sailly-aux-Bois, on 24 April 1918.
On 28 April 1918, the 14th Battalion went into the Front Line at Villers Bretonneux. They were subject to heavy enemy shelling on 30 April, and a gas bombardment was ordered. The Battalion remained under heavy attack, until they were relieved on 4 May 1918, and they were able to rest in the Support Lines, but here they were still subject to shelling. The Battalion were able to move camp to Allon-Ville by the Somme River on 21 May 1918. The Unit War Diary says that "...the Officers were all feeling a bit sick and nearly all were running temperatures. The men were also affected."
The 14th Battalion suffered heavy losses on 31 May 1918, just as they were preparing to leave their camp at Allonville. An enemy shell landed a direct hit on a barn which was occupied by the "A" Company, with 13 men killed, and 56 wounded. Another shell hit a second barn which was occupied by "C" Company, that caused 17 further casualties. Because of this incident, the Battalion were delayed by four hours, before they moved out to relieve the 54th Battalion in the Front
Line at Aubigny. They held their section until 16 June 1918, when they were relieved by the 13th Battalion.
On 4 July 1918, the 14th Battalion moved back into the Support Lines at Amiens to take part in the Hamel Offensive. After advancing to new ground, the Battalion was relieved on 6 July 1918, and moved back to the Reserve Lines. Here they spent time relaxing and participating in organised sports activities.
It was during this period of inactivity that Private Lay was admitted to Hospital, and was diagnosed with V.D. epididymitis. On 28 July 1918, he was treated by the 4th Australian Field Ambulance, the 20th Casualty Clearing Station and the 12th Casualty Clearing Station. He was then moved to the 39th General Hospital at Havre for further treatment, before being discharged back to duty. His time off-duty amounted to 65 days.
When Private Lay re-joined the Battalion on 7 October 1918, they were still located at Amiens, resting and training. This remained the case until the Armistice on 11 November 1918. There is no mention in the Unit War Diary of any celebration by the Battalion.
The 14th Battalion moved to various locations in France while waiting to be repatriated. It was not until 26 April 1919, that Private Lay marched out of the Battalion to begin his trip home. After spending time in England, he was able to embark from Plymouth on 19 June 1919 per HMAT Miltiades A28, and disembarked at Melbourne on 5 August 1919.
Two months later he was discharged from the AIF at the 3rd Military District, in Melbourne.
Ronald Sylvester Lay married Dorothy Elsie Martin on 6 May 1923 at Melbourne.
In 1925, the couple were living at 28 Mills Street Albert Park, and he was employed as a labourer.
The Electoral Rolls show that they had moved frequently:
- in 1926 they were at 233 Inkerman Street St Kilda
- in 1931 at 4 Crews Street St Kilda
- in 1936 at 16 Queen Street St Kilda
- in 1937 at 36 Queen Street St Kilda
- between 1943 and 1949 at 6 Craven Street Armadale
- in 1954 at 100 Sutherland Road Armadale
Between 1963 and 1968 Ronald Lay was living alone at 365 Beaconsfield Parade in St. Kilda.
At the age of 66 years, Ronald made an application for benefits under the Repatriation Act in July 1963.
Ronald Lay died on 27 August 1969, aged 72 years. He was cremated at the Fawkner Memorial Park on 29 August 1969.
Medals and Entitlements:
- British War Medal - received 5 March 1923
- Victory Medal - received 5 March 1923
The name "Lay, R.S." first appeared in the Roll of Honor, Werribee Shire Banner, 27 July 1916, p.1.
His name appears on the Werribee Shire Oak Board as "LAY, R.S.".
The 14th Battalion was part of the 4th Division, and they fought at:
- Poziers - August 1916
- Bullecourt - April 1917
- German Spring Offensive - Early 1918
- Amiens - August 1918
69th Battalion Senior Cadets: The Chief Officer was Capt. Whitehead, and it comprised of four companies. Werribee being the "D" Company. Werribee Shire Banner, 15 August 1912, p.3.
War Diary https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG1000595/