Meritorious Service Medal (George V): Sergeant J M Lyons, 17 Battalion, AIF

Unit 17th Australian Infantry Battalion
Accession Number REL37353.003
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Meritorious Service Medal (Geo V). Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

History / Summary

Associated with the service of John Maher 'Jack' Lyons, who was born in Emmaville, NSW in 1887. He was working as a tram conductor when he enlisted in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) on 16 August 1914. He was posted to H Company of the 1st (Tropical) Battalion with the service number 856 and the rank of private.

Lyons embarked with the ANMEF from Cockatoo Island aboard HMAT A35 Berrima on 19 August 1914. After a brief period of training at Palm Island, the force invaded New Britain on 11 September. After short but fierce fighting, the Union Jack was raised over Rabaul on 13 September. Upon expiration of his enlistment term with the ANMEF Lyons returned to Australia and enlisted in the AIF on 1 February 1915 and was allocated the new service number, 605. While back in Australia he married Evelyn Magdalene Bennett. He was promoted to corporal and on 12 May 1915, embarked aboard HMAT A32 Themistocles at Circular Quay with B Company, 17 Battalion.

Lyons landed at Gallipoli on 20 August and took part in the battle for Hill 60. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in September for his outstanding leadership. He left Gallipoli during the evacuation in December and returned to Egypt. The battalion shipped to France in March 1916. During the battalion's initial fighting in the Nursery Sector of the Western Front, Lyons took part in a trench raid conducted by members of the 5th Infantry Brigade during the night of 26/27 June.

Lyons later took part in the fighting at Pozieres in July 1916. He was awarded the Military Medal for his actions during this battle and for his work at Hill 60, Gallipoli. He suffered a gunshot wound to the left side of his face on 26 July and was evacuated to England.

Returning to France in October, he was briefly transferred to the 13th Battalion before returning to the 17th Battalion a month later. Lyons spent the winter months on the Somme before the advance to the Hindenburg Line the following year. Lyons was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on 1 January 1917 'For general good work and devotion to duty. Has been with the Battalion since its inception. A most efficient bomber, and did very good work at BOIS GRENIER, particularly in the 5th Brigade raid on 26/27 June. Also at POZIERES during the Bombing fight at Munster Alley where he was wounded while bravely leading his men.'.

He was wounded a second time near Grevilliers on 3 March 1917 when he was hit by shrapnel in his legs, buttocks and right wrist. He was evacuated back to England for operations to remove the shrapnel and to recover. Lyons returned to the battalion on 31 July and was promoted to lieutenant the same day.

Lyons was awarded the Military Cross posthumously for his actions during the attack towards Passchendaele on 9 October 1917. Lyons was wounded during the attack and was placed on a stretcher in a captured German pill box. Due to a heavy counter attack, the Australian troops were forced to retreat and Lyons was unable to be moved. The area was later retaken, but Lyons was never found. After an investigation, he was listed as killed in action. Lyons has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.