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PTE Edward Ryan, VC

30 SEP 1918: World War I and 1717 Private Edward John Francis Ryan, 55th Battalion, originally of Tumut, New South Wales, earns the Victoria Cross at Bellicourt, France. Jack Ryan was born on 9th February 1890 at Tumut, New South Wales. His father Michael was a labourer born in Australia to Irish parents. Michael Ryan married Eugenia Newman at Tumut in 1886. The family lived on a farm at Blowering, upstream from Tumut. Jack Ryan worked at the Tumut post office before taking on labouring work on the railways. When the Kangaroo March began in Wagga Wagga he joined in the long march to Sydney. He was enlisted in the 55th Battalion – 2nd Reinforcements and embarked on the Ceramic in April 1916. He served in Egypt and on the Western Front, a number of times suffering forfeiture of pay for various offences.

On September 30th 1918 he carried out an action which awarded him the Victoria Cross. His citation read: “For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during an attack against the Hindenburg defences on 30th September 1918. In the initial assault on the enemy’s positions Private Ryan went forward with great dash and determination and was one of the first to reach the enemy trench. His exceptional skill and daring inspired his comrades and, despite heavy fire, the hostile garrison was soon overcome and the trench occupied. The enemy then counter attacked and succeeded in establishing a bombing party in the rear of the position. Under fire from front and rear, the position was critical, and necessitated prompt action. Quickly appreciating the situation, he organized and led the men near him with bomb and bayonet against the enemy bombers, finally reaching the position with only three men. By skilful bayonet work, his small party succeeded in killing the first three Germans on the enemy’s flank, then, moving along the embankment, Private Ryan alone rushed the remainder with bombs. He fell wounded after he had driven back the enemy, who suffered heavily as they retired across “No Man’s Land”. A particularly dangerous situation had been saved by this gallant soldier, whose example of determination bravery and initiative was an inspiration to all.”

Jack Ryan was lauded as the hero he was, on his return to Australia. However he could not settle and sadly the rest of his life was an unfortunate one. He became a swagman for a number of years, drifting around looking for work. Any work he took on was short term except when employed as a commissionaire at a Melbourne insurance office where he managed to remain for several years before he moved on again. He was once again tramping streets looking for work when he fell ill and was hospitalised in the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The Kangaroo Victoria Cross winner passed away from pneumonia aged 51 on 3rd June 1941. Edward John Francis Ryan was buried with military honours in the Catholic section of Springvale cemetery, where eight V.C winners formed a guard of honour. His sister, Mrs P.G. Grant of Yass presented Jack’s V.C to the Australian War Memorial in 1967. More;


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