John (Jack) RYAN VC

RYAN, John

Service Number: 1717
Enlisted: 1 December 1915, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 55th Infantry Battalion
Born: Tumut, New South Wales, Australia, 9 February 1890
Home Town: Adelong, Tumut Shire, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Pneumonia , Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 3 June 1941, aged 51 years
Cemetery: Springvale War Cemetery, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Catholic Section
Memorials: John Hamilton VC Pictorial Honour Roll, Keith Payne VC Memorial Park, North Bondi War Memorial, Tumut Boer War Memorial, Winchelsea WWI Memorial
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World War 1 Service

1 Dec 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
14 Apr 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1717, 55th Infantry Battalion
14 Apr 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1717, 55th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ceramic, Sydney
10 Jan 1920: Discharged AIF WW1
Date unknown: Involvement 55th Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

'V.C. WINNER CARRIES SWAG: On the Road for Four Years:

Like many veterans, and despite being a recipient of the highest award the Army had, a return to post-war life brought a new and often very difficult reality.

John Ryan was no exception. In 1929, John Ryan sought relief from the Mudgee Anzac and Armistice Association.

The Melbourne 'Age' reported, 16 August 1935:
'V.C. WINNER CARRIES SWAG: On the Road for Four Years. Mildura:

Carrying a swag, John Ryan, a private in the 55th Battalion, walked into an office in Mildura today [Thursday] and asked for work. He had "hitch-hiked" from Balranald. He had been on the road for the past four years.'


Awarded the Victoria Cross - Hindenburg Line

'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.'

Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 61
Date: 23 May 1919

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Main Image  - 

Edward John Francis Ryan (1890-1941), by Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co., c1919

Australian War Memorial, P01383.013 (

Like all of Australia's VC winners, John Ryan's biography has been researched by numbers of authoritative sources.  Following is a brief extract and link to his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry.  Others can be sourced via links in the sidebar.  Readers are also referred to the standard reference, Lionel Wigmore's "They Dared Mightily" originally published in 1962 but upodated and reprinted on several occasions.

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Edward John Francis Ryan (1890-1941), soldier and labourer, was born on 9 February 1890 at Tumut, New South Wales, second son of Michael Ryan, a Sydney-born labourer, and his wife Eugenia, née Newman, from Gunning. Educated locally, he worked as a labourer before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force at Wagga Wagga on 1 December 1915. After marching to Sydney with the 'Kangaroos' recruiting march he was posted to the 2nd Reinforcements of the 55th Battalion. He left Sydney on 14 April 1916 and after two months in Egypt joined his unit at Fleurbaix, France, in September. He remained with the 55th for the rest of the war except in January-June 1917 when he was detached to the Anzac Light Railways Unit.

John Ryan won the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during the allied assault on the Hindenburg defences on 30 September 1918.