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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Layh, Herbert Thomas Christoph (1885–1964)

by Warren Perry

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Herbert Thomas Christoph Layh (1885-1964), bank clerk and soldier, was born on 3 April 1885 at Hamilton, Victoria, son of German-born Carl Layh, accountant, and his English wife Jane Emma, née Remfry. Nothing is known of his early education; he probably attended local schools at Hamilton.

On 13 September 1900 Layh became a clerk with the Hamilton Savings Bank, later taken over by the State Savings Bank of Victoria, and was transferred to Melbourne in 1906; in 1908 he completed the senior examinations of the Bankers' Institute. He resigned from the bank on 25 June 1912 while employed as a clerk at its head office in Melbourne and in July joined the Melbourne branch of the newly founded Commonwealth Bank of Australia. On 30 December 1909, at St Michael's Anglican Church, Carlton, he had married Beatrice Olive Akeroyd; they had a daughter and a son.

Layh had taken an active interest in military training in the citizen forces. On 12 October 1908 he was commissioned second lieutenant in the 5th Australian Infantry Regiment, Melbourne, and in July 1913 became militia adjutant of the 60th (Prince's Hill) Infantry. On 14 August 1914 he was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant and allotted to H. E. ('Pompey') Elliott's 7th Battalion which sailed from Melbourne in October. In Egypt, on 3 April 1915, he was promoted captain. He landed at Gallipoli with his battalion on the first day of the campaign and was shot in the hip and leg as his boat grounded at Anzac beach. Returning to duty on 1 July, he was posted on 26 August to command 'A' Company and from then until 9 September was also second-in-command of the 7th Battalion.

Layh's battalion remained at Anzac until the evacuation and in January 1916 underwent reorganization and training in Egypt. On 28 January his temporary rank of major became substantive. Layh was transferred on 24 February, with other officers and men, to form the nucleus of the new 59th Battalion of the 15th Infantry Brigade. This battalion reached France in June and took part on 19 July in the ill-fated battle of Fromelles. During part of the battle Layh took temporary command, an appointment confirmed on 27 July with promotion to lieutenant-colonel. On 9 May 1917 he was wounded by a gas-shell during operations at Favreuil and was evacuated. Transferred to the 57th Battalion on 3 April 1918, he commanded it in the 2nd battle of Villers-Bretonneux, then on 1 May was transferred to command the 60th Battalion, also in the 15th Brigade. He commanded that brigade temporarily from 9 to 20 July 1918 then returned to lead the 60th Battalion in operations at Lihons from 8 to 12 August.

After these operations Layh's active service ended and on 13 October 1918 he embarked for Australia. His service in the A.I.F. had been outstanding and can be measured by his promotions, honours and awards. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in December 1916 and a Bar to it in 1918, and in 1919 he was appointed C.M.G. He was also mentioned in dispatches three times. On 18 December 1924 he was awarded the Volunteer Officers' Decoration.

Layh resumed duty on 28 January 1919 with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Melbourne Branch; he resigned from the bank's service on 30 June 1924. His wife died in June 1934 and on 7 April 1937 he married a widow, Olive Blanche Turner, née Hood, at the Office of the Victorian Government Statist, Melbourne; on his marriage certificate he described himself as a clerk. His second wife predeceased him and when he died after being struck by a car on 10 April 1964, he was living at Box Hill. He was cremated with Anglican rites. The children of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924), and The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • A. Dean and E. W. Gutteridge, The Seventh Battalion, A.I.F. (Melb, 1933)
  • London Gazette, 29 Dec 1916, 2 Jan, 25 Dec 1917, 16 Sept, 31 Dec 1918, 1 Jan 1919
  • war diaries, 57th and 59th Battalions, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • State Bank of Victoria Archives, (Melbourne).

Citation details

Warren Perry, 'Layh, Herbert Thomas Christoph (1885–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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