The AIF Project


Regimental number1717
Date of birth9 February 1890
Place of birthTumut, New South Wales
ReligionRoman Catholic
AddressTumut, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation25
Height5' 7"
Weight154 lbs
Next of kinMother, Mrs Eugenie Ryan, Tumut, New South Wales
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date1 December 1915
Place of enlistmentWagga Wagga, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name55th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/72/3
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A40 Ceramic on 14 April 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll55th Battalion
Recommendations (Medals and Awards)

Victoria Cross

Recommendation date: 10 October 1918

FateReturned to Australia 6 September 1919
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Plaque in Victorian Garden of Remembrance

Victoria Cross

'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 dangeous 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

Discharge date10 January 1920
Family/military connectionsCousin: 2835A Pte David John RICHARDS, 9th Bn, killed in action, 20 April 1916.
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Disembarked Port Said, 16 May 1916. Embarked Alexandria on board HT 'Arcadian', 29 July 1916; found guilty, 26 July 1916, of being absent from Muster Parade: forfeited 10 days' pay; disembarked Southampton, England, via Marseilles, 9 August 1916. Found guilty, 28 August 1916, of being late on parade 6.30 am: awarded forfeiture of 7 days' pay.

Proceeded overseas to France, 9 September 1916; taken on strength, 55th Bn, 23 September 1916.

Detached to Anzac Light Railways, 8 January 1917; rejoined Bn from detachment, 12 June 1917.

Found guilty, 14 July 1917, of overstaying leave pass from 8 pm, 2 July, until reporting for duty at 3.30 pm, 3 July 1917: awarded 4 days' field Punishment No 2 and forfeiture of 2 days' pay; total forfeiture of 6 days' pay.

Whilst returning from leave, admitted to No 2 Convalescent Depot, 4 October 1917; transferred to 39th General Hospital, 6 October 1917; discharged to duty, 11 November 1917; total period of treatment for venereal disease: 39 days. Rejoined Bn, 22 November 1917.

Wounded in action, 30 September 1918 (gun shot wound, right shoulder), and admitted to 32nd Field Ambulance; transferred same day to 12th Casualty Clearing Station, and thence by Ambulance Train No 20 to 34th General Hospital, Trouville; admitted 2 October 1918. Transferred to No 1 Convalescent Depot, Havre, 25 October 1918; discharged to Australian General Base Depot, Havre, 15 November 1918; rejoined Bn, 7 December 1918.

Awarded Victoria Cross.

On leave to United Kingdom, 17 December 1918; rejoined Bn from leave, 9 January 1919.

Proceeded to England for return to Australia, 16 April 1919; disembarked Southampton, 17 April 1919, and marched in to No 5 Group, Weymouth.

Admitted to 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital, Bulford, 3 June 1919; discharged, 8 June 1919; total period of treatment for venereal disease: 6 days.

District Court Martial held at Tidworth, 30 July 1919: charge 1: Failing to appear at place of parade at 1400, 15 July; 2. Failing to appear at place of parade at 1000, 16 July; 3. Disobeying a lawful command; 4. Using insubordinate language. Found guilty to 1 & 4; not guilty to 2 & 3. Awarded forfeiture of 1 day's pay. GOC did not uphold finding on charge 2.Marched in to No 1 Group, Sutton Veny, 1 August 1919.

Commenced return to Australia from Devonport on board HT 'Eripides', 7 September 1919; admitted to ship's hospital at sea, 4 October 1919; disembarked Sydney, 24 October 1919; discharged, 10 January 1920.

Medals: Victoria Cross, British War Medal, Victory Medal

In 1929 he sought relief from the Mudgee Anzac and Armistice Association.

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.'
Date of death3 June 1941
Age at death51
Place of burialSpringvale Cemetery (Catholic Section), Melbourne, Victoria
Sources'Australian Dictionary of Biography', vol. 11, p. 492.