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Percy Levy was born in London in 1892. He was one of 12 children of Lewis Levy and his wife Hannah, ne Cohen. The family was successful in the scrap iron and ship-breaking business, and when Percy was four years old, they were able to move from the East End to affluent Swiss Cottage.
Lewis Levy encouraged his children to keep scrapbooks. Percy created a wonderfully complete record, his Book of Life, which documented his formative years until 1920. The album contains a great variety of documents and small objects such as letters, invitations, photographs, newspaper cuttings, dance cards, school reports and postcards that Percy collected from childhood onwards.
The book gives us an insight into the life of a middle-class Jewish family. Percy attended the prestigious University College School, his parents had 'at home' days with printed invitations, his brothers and sisters held elegant receptions to celebrate their engagements and weddings. In 1915 Percy became a Freemason, joining a Jewish lodge along with his older brother Cecil, and he served on the committees of Jewish charities.
Much of the Book of Life is devoted to Percy's experiences during the First World War. He served as a lieutenant with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on the Western Front from 1917-19. Due to his knowledge of French and German, he was attached tothe Intelligence Corps as an Intelligence Officer. He was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre medal for bravery on the battlefield, and he was mentioned in Despatches.
Percy's brothers, Cecil and Lawrence (known as Lawrie), also served in the First World War. Cecil was in the Royal Naval Air Service, and Lawrie served on the Home Front.
In 1920, Percy Levy married Maude Simmons. After his marriage he stopped keeping his Book of Life, so we know relatively little about his later years. He died in 1964 at the age of 72.
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