Private John Lynn VC, DCM

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Click here and see the Pathe news film it show's John in action its quite a way into the film
It is a very big file and will take a while to download, so be patient.

Private John Lynn VC, DCM. Lancashire Fusiliers - The Forgotten Hero.

Private John Lynn VC. DCM. Story
and the Gas attacks

(Click on the cuttings for a readable version)

(A few years ago, by accident, I found out about this remarkable Fusilier. The following is a brief summary of what I've discovered about him.)

John Lynn, who won the VC at Ypres, May 1915, was born in Forrest Hill, South London in 1888 and spent his early years in the area. However the only memorial to John, in England, appears to be the one at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Bury, Greater Manchester.

Unfortunately information on John is sparse. His army service records do not appear to have survived. (I cannot find trace of them amongst the 'Unburnt Documents' held at the PRO, Kew.) The information that is readily available tends to concentrate on the events leading to his winning the DCM and the VC while serving with the 2nd Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers during WW1.

Winning the VC.

An extract from the "London Gazette," dated 29th June 1915, records the following: -"For most conspicuous bravery near Ypres on 2nd May 1915. When the Germans were advancing behind their wave of asphyxiating gas, Pte. Lynn, although almost overcome by the deadly fumes, handled his machine gun with very great effect against the enemy, and when he could not see them he moved his gun higher up on the parapet, which enabled him to bring even more effective fire to bear, and eventually checked any further advance. The great courage displayed by this soldier had a fine effect on his comrades in the very trying circumstances. He died from the effects of gas poisoning."
As a result of this action John also had the rare distinction of being named in Sir John French's dispatches.

On December of the previous year, John was also awarded the DCM for his courage when he to quote from the Gazette of the 17th December 1914, ' For gallant conduct. Took charge of an isolated machine gun when his Serjeant was killed, brought it out of action when jammed and took it back again to the firing line when repaired.'
John was also awarded posthumously, on the 25th August 1915, the Cross of St George 4th Class (Russia).

John died the day after the action, which gained him the VC. He was buried in Vlamertinghe Churchyard, Belgium but his grave was later destroyed by shellfire and there is now a special memorial stone erected to him at the Grootebeek British Cemetery.

John's name is also listed on the WW1 memorial in St Mary's Church, Bury, Lancs. This appears to be the only memorial to him in England.

His Family.

Although John's gallant actions are well recorded, as noted earlier, knowledge about John, his parents and foster parents is sparse. The following is a summary of what is known.

A recently discovered birth certificate shows John was born on the 21st April 1888 at 6 Helvetia St, Perry Hill, Catford. London. (This differs from other records, which give a birth year of 1987.) His mother was a Lily Lynn and his father was unknown.
An Elizabeth Harrison, of the same address, registered John's birth under the name John Walter Harrison Lynn.

Elizabeth and her husband, Phillip, apparently acted as John's foster parents throughout his childhood. What is known suggests that John may have had a difficult childhood.

He attended Christ Church School, Forest Hill, London, SE23 and his family home was variously 20 Hindsley Place or 2 Church Vale, Forest Hill. His foster mother was a laundress/ washerwoman.
For some unknown reason in1899, possibly as a result of the death of his foster father, John came under the care of the Lewisham Board of Governors. On the 1/9/1899, he was sent to the North Surrey District School, Anerly, Upper Norwood, Surrey. The school records show he ran away from the school once during the short period he was there.

On the18/10/1899 he was moved to the TS Exmouth, a training ship, which was moored on the Thames at Grays, Essex. The records show that his behaviour generally was very good and towards the end of his stay on board the Exmouth was rated First Class on the Clarinet but only Second Class in Seamanship and Swimming.

On the 12/01/1901 John, with Elizabeth Harrison's approval, joined the 3rd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers as a band boy. He joined under the name of John Lynn and also appears to have been registered as Irish.

John served in the army until 1912/13; prior to his discharge he was stationed in Bury and met and became engaged to Alice Mason. On his discharge he began living in Gorton, Manchester with the family of his fiancée, Alice Mason, while working at Armstrong-Whitworth Ltd.

John and Alice were due to be married in November 1914 but unfortunately John, as a reservist, was recalled to the 2nd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers at the outbreak of war. Alice was on holiday and they did not get a chance to say goodbye before John went with the Battalion. John and Alice's rearranged plans for marriage unfortunately were overtaken by his death.

In March 1916 the War Dept. sent his medals to Alice, as his legatee. In 1955, Alice presented the medals to the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum in Bury where they are now held.

The Questions.

So who was John Lynn? We know he was a hero, but who was he? Was he a good soldier?

There are a lot more unanswered questions:
" Who was Lily Lynn, his mother? Who was his Father?
" Who were the Harrison's, his foster parents?
" Did he have any foster brothers and sisters?
" Are there families living today who could claim a direct link to John?
" Was he Irish? The only information, which supports this claim, comes from a web-site Was this a clerical error at recruitment or later, or did it link back to his real mother or Father. (The Web-site no longer appears to be supported but was linked to the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum site.) The Commonwealth War Graves Commission list him as an English Soldier.
" Are there descendants of the Mason family still alive in the Manchester area, who might know something about Alice? She had 3 sisters and 2 brothers. Alice, who was born in Gorton Manchester in 1887, does not appear to have married, but it is known that a grand nephew, Alan Murdey lives in Essex.

If you can add anything to this story of John Lynn, please e-mail the Editor of this web-site or myself.

John Harrington-Lynn.

From the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, The British Army in the Field.
To the Secretary of State-for-War, War Office, London, S.W.

General Headquarters,
15th June, 1915.

The eighth Despatch of Field Marshal Sir John French, Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. Printed in the Second Supplement to the London Gazette of 10 July 1915. The Despatch dealt with the intensive fighting at Hill 60 and in the Second Battle of Ypres, and with the less than wholly successful attacks of Aubers Ridge and Festubert. French is fulsome in his praise of Plumer: he does not mention that Plumer arrived to take the place of Smith-Dorrien, who French had sacked.
( }

My Lord,-
I have the honour to report that since the date of my last) despatch (5th April, 1915) the Army in France under my command has been heavily engaged opposite both flanks of the line held by the British Forces. ……….
There have been many cases of individual gallantry. As instances may be given the following: -
During one of the heavy attacks made against our infantry gas was seen rolling forward from the enemy's trenches. Private Lynn of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers at once rushed to the machine gun without waiting to adjust his respirator. Single-handed he kept his gun in action the whole time the gas was rolling over, actually hoisting it on the parapet to get a better field of fire. Although nearly suffocated by the gas, he poured a stream of lead into the advancing enemy and checked their attack. He was carried to his dug-out, but, hearing another attack was imminent, he tried to get back to his gun. Twenty-four hours later he died in great agony from the effects of the gas.