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Thurles Ryan Gathering – Lest We Forget The Military

With the Ryan Gathering beginning here in Thurles on the weekend of August 23rd -25th 2013, it is only right that we stop for a moment to remember those heroic Ryan’s scattered around the world in times of past wars.

Ryan’s Awarded The Victoria Cross.

There are at least four Ryan’s, that I am aware of, who were awarded the Victoria Cross, latter the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, that can be awarded to members of British and Commonwealth forces.

Private Edward John Francis Ryan VC

Private Edward John Francis Ryan VC

Edward John Francis Ryan VC (9th February 1890 – 3rd June 1941), a Catholic Labourer was better known as John Ryan. He was approximately twenty eight years old, and a private in the 55th Battalion, (N.S.W.), Australian Imperial Force during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

His citation reads:-
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 embarkment, 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.”

His recorded character offers the impression that he was, as we say here in Tipperary “His own man.” He was regularly up on charges of overstaying leave passes, disobeying lawful commands, and using insubordinate language to superiors. Sadly and despite receiving, on the 22nd of May 1919, his V.C. from King George V at Buckingham Palace, after the war he was left to wander the roads of Australia, poverty stricken and alone for some 4 years seeking work. In May 1941, in poor health, he was again tramping the streets looking for work and was taken to hospital where he died of pneumonia in the Royal Melbourne Hospital on the 3rd June 1941. He was buried with military honours in the Catholic section of Springvale cemetery where eight other V.C. winners formed a guard of honour.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Australian War Memorial (Canberra, Australia).

John Ryan VC (1839 – 29th December 1864) was born in Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary and was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross. Ryan was only 24 years old, and a Lance Corporal in the 65th Regiment of Foot British Army during the invasion of Waikato (one of the campaigns in the New Zealand Wars), when the following deed took place on the 7th September 1863, for which he was awarded his VC.

His citation reads:-
For gallant conduct at the engagement near Cameron town above referred to. This Non-Commissioned Officer, with Privates Bulford and Talbot, of the same Regiment, who have been recommended for the Medal for distinguished conduct in the Field, for their behaviour on the same occasion, removed the body of the late Captain Swift from the Field of Action, after he had been mortally wounded, and remained with it all night in a bush surrounded by the enemy.”
Ryan later died at Tuakau, New Zealand, on 29th December one year later in 1864, & before he received his VC. He tragically drowned while trying to save a drunken comrade in the Waikato River.

John Ryan VC (1823 – 4 March 1858,) born in our neighbouring county Kilkenny, was also an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, while a soldier in the 1st Madras European Fusiliers.

His citation reads:-
A party, on the 26th of September, 1857, was shut up and besieged in a house in the city of Lucknow, by the rebel sepoys (Indian Soldiers ).  Private McManus in conjunction with Private John Ryan, rushed into the street, and took Captain Arnold, of the 1st Madras Fusiliers, out of a dooly, and brought him into the house in spite of a heavy fire, in which Captain Arnold was again wounded. In addition to the above act, Private Ryan distinguished himself throughout the day by his intrepidity, and especially devoted himself to rescuing the wounded in the neighbourhood from being massacred. He was most anxious to visit every dooly. (Dooly: a simple litter, often used to transport sick or wounded persons.) (Extract is taken from the Divisional Orders of Major-General Sir James Outram. G.C.B., dated 11th October, 1857.)
Ryan later achieved the rank of Sergeant and was killed in action at Cawnpore, India, on the 4th of March 1858.

Miles Ryan VC (1826 – January 1887) was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, born in Derry, Londonderry.
Ryan was about 31 years old, and a drummer in the 1st Bengal European Fusiliers during the Indian Mutiny when the following deed took place for which he and another, James McGuire were awarded the VC.

His citation reads:-
Date of Act of Bravery, 14th September, 1857.
At the assault on Delhi on the 14th September, 1857, when the Brigade had reached the Cabul Gate, the 1st Fusiliers and 75th Regiment, and some Sikhs, were waiting for orders, and some of the Regiments were getting ammunition served out (three boxes of which exploded from some cause not clearly known, and two others were in a state of ignition), when Sergeant McGuire and Drummer Ryan rushed into the burning mass, and, seizing the boxes, threw them, one after the other, over the parapet into the water. The confusion consequent on the explosion was very great, and the crowd of soldiers and native followers, who did not know where the danger lay, were rushing into certain destruction, when Sergeant McGuire and Drummer Ryan, by their coolness and personal daring, saved the lives of many at the risk of their own.

He died in Bengal, British India in January 1887.

“We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow. Loved and were loved and now we lie in Flanders fields.”   (Poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.)

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