b. 21/04/1888 Forest Hill, London. d. 03/05/1915 Wieltje, Belgium.
John Lynn (1888-1915) was born at 6 Helvetia Street, Perry Hill, Catford, London on 21st April 1888. His birth was registered in Lewisham by his foster parents as John Walter Harrrison Lynn, but he was generally known as John Harrison until he joined the Army. His father is inknown and beyond her name, Lily Lynn, nothing is known of his mother. John was fostered by Philip (or John) and Elizabeth J Harrison when he was three days old.
He was educated at Christ Church School, Forest Hill, where he was known as John Harrison. He was sent to North Surrey District School, Anerley, Upper Norwood, Surrey, from 1st September 1899, but ran away during the short period he was there.
John was admitted as a boy soldier on the Training Ship Exmouth on 18th October 1899 from the Lewisham Poor Law Union. He was just ten and a half years old. John would stay on the Exmouth until he was discharged on 12th January 1901 and enlisted as a bandsman in 3rd Lancashire Fusiliers under his real name. He served with 2nd Battalion in Malta, India and at Wellington Barracks in Bury, Lancashire. He transferred to the Reserve early in 1914 and took a job in the armour plate grinding department of Messrs Armstrong-Whitworth in Openshaw. He became engaged to Alice Mason, and a wedding was planned for November 1914, but was cancelled because of the outbreak of war.
John was recalled in August 1914 and went to France on the 26th. Alice was on holiday in Blackpool when war broke out and her efforts to say farewell to John before he left the Depot were thwarted by trains crammed with soldiers. John was soon in the thick of the fighting and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Le Touquet in the Battle of Armentieres on 21st October 1914; he took charge of an isolated machine gun when Corporal Edgar Parkinson was killed, brought it out of action when it jammed and returned it to the firing line with fresh ammunition when it was repaired and brought it back to the action. He was gazetted for this action on 17th December 1914. He then took part in the Christmas Truce 1914, during which the Battalion won a soccer match against the Saxons 3-2.
John’s delayed wedding had been re-scheduled for April 1915, but sadly John was unable to get leave for it. Sadly, John would never make it back to England for his wedding. On 2nd May 1915 near Ypres, Belgium, when the Germans were advancing behind their wave of asphyxiating gas, Private Lynn, although almost overcome by the deadly fumes, handled his machine-gun with great effect against the enemy, and when he could not see them, he moved his gun higher up the parapet so that he could fire more effectively. This eventually checked any further advance and the outstanding courage displayed by this soldier had a great effect upon his comrades in the very trying circumstances. Private Lynn died later from the effects of gas poisoning.
John died at the Casualty Clearing Station at St Julian, and was buried in Vlamertinghe Churchyard. His grave was later destroyed by shellfire. He was commemorated on the Vlamertinghe Churchyard Memorial in Grootebeek British Cemetery. John had told a comrade that in the event of his death, he wanted his possessions to go to his fiancée, Alice Mason. As a result his VC was posted to her at 56 Queen’s Road, Gorton on 29th March 1916. Her distress at losing John was made worse when she lost her handbag with letters in from the front. John was also posthumously awarded the Russian Cross of the Order of St George 4th Class on 25th August 1915.
In addition to his VC and DCM, John was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and the Russian Cross of St George, 4th Class. His medals were presented to the Lancashire Fusiliers Regimental Museum in 1955 and are held by their Museum in Bury, Lancashire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS MUSEUM, BURY.
BURIAL PLACE: GROOTEBEEK CEMETERY, BELGIUM.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
Lewisham Shopping Centre
War Illustrated, 20th November 1915
War Illustrated, 20th November 1915