He was 28 years old, and a sergeant in the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place at the battle of Cambrai for which he was awarded the VC.
On 27 November 1917 at Fontaine Notre Dame, France, when all his officers had become casualties, Sergeant McAulay assumed command of the company and under shell and machine-gun fire successfully held and consolidated the objectives gained. He reorganised the company and noticing a counter-attack developing, repulsed it by the skilful and bold use of machine-guns, causing heavy enemy casualties. The sergeant also carried his company commander, who was mortally wounded, to a place of safety.
After the war he resumed his career in the Glasgow Police, rising to the rank of inspector before retiring in 1948. His Victoria Cross is displayed at Scots Guards Regimental Headquarters, London.