|Date of Birth||August 10, 1884|
|Place of Birth||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Mary Bays (mother), 82 Edwards Road, Erdington, Birmingham, England|
|Trade / Calling||Divinity Student|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Records Office|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Saskatoon, Saskatchewan|
|Address at Enlistment||Saskatoon, Saskatchewan|
|Date of Enlistment||November 22, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||31|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||February 6, 1965|
|Age at Death||80|
Acting Corporal Percy Clarence Bays was a divinity student when he enlisted in November 1915. He served in Great Britain for more than three years and returned to Canada in August 1919.
Percy was the son of Charles Bays and Mary Ann Newton. Charles and Mary were both born in England, Charles in Manchester and his wife in Lincolnshire. They came to Canada in August 1882 on the SS Circassian, sailing from Liverpool to Quebec with Winnipeg, Manitoba as their destination. Percy was born in Winnipeg on 10 August 1884. He was followed by two daughters, Florence Evelyn in 1886 and Blanche Kathleen in 1888. When the 1891 census was taken the family was living in Winnipeg and Charles was a customs clerk.
In September 1892 Charles and Mary moved back to England, travelling with their children on the SS Labrador. Their destination in the UK was Peterborough. A daughter Lillian was born in 1894 and she died as an infant. Two more sons followed, Reginald Charles in 1898 and Norman Gerald in 1900. At the time of the 1901 census the family was living in Aston Manor, on the outskirts of Birmingham. Percy was 16 years old and working for an electrical engineering company and his father was a merchant’s clerk. A daughter Olive died as an infant in 1903 and a daughter Marjorie was born in 1907. For the 1911 census Mary said she had 11 children, six still living, so, sadly, there were likely three other children who died young.
Percy and his father both returned to Canada in 1910. Percy arrived on the SS Victorian in April and that same year he began studying for the Anglican ministry at Emmanuel College in Saskatoon. His father also lived in Saskatoon and when the 1911 census was taken he was working as a civil servant at the Land Titles office. His wife and other children joined him that summer, arriving in July 1911 on the Empress of Ireland. The family returned to England in May 1913 but Percy and his brother Reginald stayed in Canada. Percy continued his divinity studies and his brother worked as a clerk for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Their father passed away in Erdington, Warwickshire, England in August 1915. The war was in its second year by then and both Percy and Reginald enlisted.
Percy signed up on 22 November 1915 in Saskatoon, joining the 5th Overseas Universities Company. After training over the winter his unit headed to the UK in April 1916. Percy arrived in England on the SS Olympic on 12 April and two weeks later he was transferred to the R.C.R. and P.P.C.L.I. Depot. Reginald had also enlisted with the 5th Overseas Universities Battalion. He signed up on 7 December 1915 in Saskatoon, at age 17, and he was discharged by purchase on 28 July 1916 in Montreal.
On 12 June 1916 Percy was transferred to the Canadian Records Office in London and he served there for two years, getting appointed as Acting Corporal on 1 September 1916. On 20 August 1918 he reverted to the ranks by his own request and he was attached to the General Depot. He was transferred to the 6th Reserve Battalion at Seaford on 25 October. On 27 January 1919 he was posted to the Canadian Records Office again, as an Acting Corporal and Class I Clerk. He returned to Canada that summer, sailing from Liverpool on the SS Caronia on 9 August and arriving in Halifax about eight days later. He was discharged on demobilization on 23 August in Quebec.
After the war Percy returned to his studies at Emmanuel College and graduated in the Class of 1920. He became a Deacon in 1920 and a Priest in 1921. In 1922 he moved to Keewatin, Ontario where he served for three years as pastor at St. James Anglican Church. He was married in Keewatin on 6 February 1923. His wife, Hilda Harper, was born in Shropshire, England in 1897, the daughter of Frederick William Harper and Lizzie Brisbourne. Hilda had immigrated to Canada in June 1919 and lived in Winnipeg with two of her sisters, working as a telephone operator.
Percy and Hilda’s first child, Rodney Victor, was born in Keewatin in 1924. The family lived in Poplar Point, Manitoba for two years, from 1925 to 1927, then spent five years in Manitou, Manitoba where another son, John Gerald, was born. In 1932 they settled in Portage la Prairie and Percy served there as Rector at St. Mary’s Church for 23 years. They had three more children, Bruce, Eric and Mary. Percy was a life member of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans and the Masonic Lodge. He was also actively involved with the Boy Scouts. During the Second World War he served as a chaplain for the Royal Canadian Artillery and in 1949 he became a Canon.
Percy and his wife moved to Winnipeg in 1955 and to British Columbia in 1958. He passed away at St. Mary’s Hospital in New Westminster on 6 February 1965, at age 80. Hilda died in 1998. Their oldest son Rodney (1924-2005) was a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, serving with them for 26 years. John (1930-2011) attended Emmanuel College like his father, getting ordained in 1960 and later becoming a Canon. Eric also attended Emmanuel College and was ordained in 1959. In 1986 he was appointed Bishop of Qu’Appelle. Percy’s brother Reginald passed away in 1996 and he’s buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Percy is commemorated on the University of Saskatchewan First World War Roll of Honour.
By Becky Johnson
Photo at top courtesy of the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections