No.4286 Driver James Ryan
James Ryan was born in Waterford, Ireland, in 1882.
James was 33, single and working as a labourer in Bacchus Marsh when he enlisted as a Private in Melbourne on 23 July 1915. He was described as being 5 feet 9¼ inches tall with grey eyes and grey hair. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 13th Reinforcements.
After a period of training in Melbourne, James left Melbourne in December 1915 on the HMAT Demosthenes, bound for Egypt. He arrived there shortly after the 7th Battalion had returned to there, following the withdrawal from Gallipoli. At that point the AIF underwent a period of reorganisation before the transfer to Europe.
In March 1916, James left Alexandria on the S.S Transylvania and sailed to Marseilles, France to join the BEF. He disembarked on 4 April 1916, and marched in on 8 April at Étaples. His Battalion entered the bloody trenches of the Western Front on 3 May 1916. It saw its first major action at Pozières in the Somme Valley in July and August, with the loss of 138 men.
The Battalion then moved to Ypres in Belgium, where the troops manned trenches and sent patrols into No Man’s Land. At the end of September, the 7th Battalion, along with the 8th Battalion, mounted a successful raid on the German line at Hollebeke, where they captured a section of the German line. In October, the Battalion returned to the Somme Valley for the harsh winter, manning trenches and training.
In early 1917, the Battalion moved back to Belgium for the advance on the Hindenburg Line. In February, James became dangerously ill with Cerebrospinal Fever (a form of meningitis) and was admitted to the Isolation Hospital in Étaples. By March he was pronounced out of danger, but remained in hospital convalescing for at least another two months.
In May, the Battalion withdrew from the Front Line, and undertook a period of reorganisation and training. In August 1917, James was appointed Driver. In September, the Battalion was back on the Front Line at the Third Battle of Ypres, where the troops fought first at Menin Road with the loss of 57 men, then at the Battle of Broodseinde, with a further loss of 98 men.
In March 1918, during the German Spring Offensive, the Battalion kept up pressure on the German line. In August, the soldiers saw major action at Lihons and Herleville Woods, as part of the Hundred Day Offensive. They continued operations until late September 1918.
In March 1919, James departed from Le Havre, France and sailed back to England. In June, he left England on HMAT Port Darwin and arrived back in Australia in July.
James was discharged on 18 September 1919.
Medals and Entitlements:
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
National Archives of Australia (NAA)
Australian War Memorial
Wikipedia – 7th Battalion