23 HAY, William

23 Lieut. William Hay – photo image courtesy University of Sydney –

23 Lieut. William Hay

William Hay was born in Edgecliff, Sydney in 1893, the second son of William and Isabella Hay.

His father William Snr. was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 1853 and came to Australia in 1873 on the advise from his great uncle Sir John Hay, politician and pastoralist.

Sir John Hay was one of the most influential politicians in the state of NSW, he was the speaker of the Legislative Assembly and President of the Legislative Council of NSW, also the town of Hay was named after him.

In his early days in Australia William Snr. gained his colonial and grazing experience at Tarriaro Station near Narrabri, NSW and six years later purchased his own grazing land, ‘Gunningbar’ and ‘Merryanbone’ stations in the Warren district of NSW.


William Snr. became a highly respected and extremely wealthy grazier breeding some of the finest Merino ram stock in the state of New South Wales.

In 1912 William Snr. died leaving his large estate to his wife, his sons John and William, and his daughter Jane who had married Robert Campbell in 1907.

William Jnr. and his brother John both attended Sydney Church of England Grammar School, William later attending St Andrew’s College, University of Sydney in 1912, studying Engineering and also training with the civilian 25th Infantry.

William Jnr. enlisted with the 1st Field Company Engineers on the 21st August 1914 and was unable to complete his engineering degree.

His older brother John ventured further and travelled to England with the ambition of obtaining a commission in the Royal Flying Corp.

William Hay with his academic credentials was immediately made a non-commissioned officer as Lieutenant.

The earliest photo of many of the originals of the 1st FCE at Centennial Park 1914.

Along with fellow originals of the 1st FCE, William was with the first contingent to land at Gallipoli on the morning of 25th April 1915.

William was suffering with Pneumonia and transferred from Gallipoli on the 15th May 1915 to Mustapha to convalesce.  As soon as he recovered he returned to Gallipoli on the 19th July, but 6 weeks later and suffering from seizures William was invalided to Mudros hospital on the 29th August and then onward to King Georges hospital in London.

He returned to his unit the 1st FCE on 21st March 1916, a few days before the unit embarked for Marseilles France and then to the western front.

While in France it is very likely William received the tragic news about his older brother John ‘Jack” Hay……..

“Lieutenant John Hay, of Gunningbar Station, near Warren, a report of whose death was published yesterday, was killed in action in France on January 20. He was attached to the Royal Flying Corps, and in October he brought down his first enemy’s plane singlehanded. During two days in October his squadron brought down five enemy machines over the enemy’s lines, and returned safely, and were warmly congratulated by the General. Writing home recently, late Lieutenant Hay said he expected great activity next spring in France, and expressed a hope to be in it” …… Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 8 February 1917.

6114010AWM John Jack Hay

Description : London, England. c.1916-07. Studio portrait of John (Jack) Hay, 40 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps (RFC). A grazier in civilian life. (Donor C. Goddard) AWM

4092730AWM Grave John jack Hay

Description: Aire, France. An elaborately engraved brass plaque mounted on a wooden propeller forms the shape of a cross over the grave of 2nd Lieutenant John (Jack) Hay, No 40 Squadron, RFC (Royal Flying Corps), at a cemetery just outside the town. The inscription on the plaque reads “The earth holds not a finer gentleman”. A grazier in civilian life, Hay was shot down by the German flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, during an air battle on 23 January 1917. Aged 28, he was the only Australian of the Red Baron’s eighty-nine victims. (Donor C. Goddard) AWM

In May 1917 William Hay was transferred to the 14th Field Artillery Brigade and mustered as a gunner with the Bombardiers in France. He was appointed Lance Corporal and in November he returned to England and attended the Royal Artillery cadet school at St John’s Wood.

What motivated William or the circumstances connected to William’s transfer is not recorded, however he remained in the Artillery until the end of the war. His own letter in 1934 also noted that he was later 2nd Lieut. with the 53rd and 113th Battalions.

In October 1918, William taking his leave, which was entitled to 1914 enlistments, embarked for Sydney Australia, via America on the “Ventura” arriving in Sydney on Christmas Eve 1918.

Shortly after his return William was engaged to Kathleen Alice Dalrymple Hay, the daughter of Richard Tycho Dalrymple Hay the first appointed Commissioner of Forests in New South Wales. They married on the 3rd December 1919.

William had inherited his part of a large fortune left by his father and it was not long before he invested in prime grazing land. His mother Isabella was also living independently wealthy at the “Albany” in Macquarie street, Sydney.

The Albany - Cnr Martin Place and Macquarie st. built 1905 demolished 1968
The Albany – Cnr Martin Place and Macquarie st. built 1905 demolished 1968

In 1921 William purchased ‘Euralie’ station near Yass NSW, the property once owned by Australian explorer Hamilton Hume. This vast estate was prime grazing land and came with equally prized Merino stock.

William and Kathleen lived at ‘Euralie’ and spent the early years of their marriage at the homestead entertaining visitors and returning to the social set in Sydney every few months.

In 1928 William subdivided ‘Euralie’ and sold the properties and stock, totaling nearly £90,000. He was now a very wealthy man.

Shortly after the sale of ‘Euralie’ William and Kathleen long recognized as a formidable social couple left Australia for a tour of the world returning to Australia after 22 months abroad at a stated cost of £8000.

By 1932 William and Kathleen were sadly involved in a messy divorce, which was well publicised in the gossip papers. This did not sit well with William, although known to be a generous man, he was also a reserved man, more content on the land that in the social spotlight.

Although divorced from his wife, ‘Kitty ’as she was better known in the social pages was uneasy with the terms of the alimony settlement and continued to apply pressure on William for further restitution.

The Truth 1933 pic of William Hay
The Truth 1933 pic of William Hay

Kitty testified to the court that she could not control her spending and could not see why she had to, and therefore required a larger monthly sum from William.

After the divorce William returned to the land and maintained a very private life. In 1935 he purchased the well-known station called ‘Inverlochie’, at Harden NSW, for £50,000 including its stock. It was an enormous station of 5000 acres.

It appears that William had grand plans of his own harking back to the days of his father’s grazing empire, but unfortunately his sudden decline in health would be his nemesis.

William suffering from the effects of gas exposure during the war and carrying a serious heart condition for many years died in Sydney on the 18th November 1937. He was 43 years old.

A small obituary was published a few weeks after his death in the Harden county newspaper.

“The death occurred in Sydney on November. 18th, of Air. William Hay, at the early, age of 43 years. ..Mr Hay purchased “Euralie” from the late Garnet Marsden and subsequently sold it at the biggest subdivision land sale ever held in Yass. After spending some time on the Continent, he purchased another large property, “Inverlochy,” Harden, which he owned at time of his death. He served in the Great War.” ….Source: Murrumburrah Signal and County of Harden Advocate -Thursday 2 December 1937.

In 1938 his mother Isabella forwarded a letter to the Defence Department requesting his war records so she could be precise about his details and have them engraved on his father’s headstone.

William Hay’s final resting place is undiscovered at this stage, however the letter below offers a clue that he may be buried alongside his father at Waverley Cemetery Sydney.

1938 letter from mother regarding Williams death.


William’s mother Isabella died in 1952 she was 92 years of age.

Ten years after his divorce his wife Kathleen remarried Commander “Thommie” De Burgh Thomas.  She continued living the life she was accustomed too.

William and Kathleen had no children during their marriage.





AWM, NAA, NLA, University of Sydney

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