Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Private John Lynn V.C., D.C.M., 2nd Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers, died from the effects of gas poisoning during the fighting at Wieltje in Belgium.
Taken in by foster parents when he was three days old, he used their surname of Harrison until he joined the army, then reverted to his mother’s surname. He was educated at Christ Church School in Forest Hill, then the North Surrey District School in Upper Norwood, from which he was known to run away. In October of 1899, at the age of ten, he was admitted as a boy soldier on the training ship Exmouth; fifteen months later he was discharged and enlisted as a bandsman with the Lancashire Fusiliers, seeing service in Malta and India.
Early in 1914, Private Lynn transferred to the reserve only to be recalled in August and sent to France. He earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions two months later at Le Touquet in the Battle of Armentieres. The day before his death his actions won him the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross; this account is from the citation: “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”.
He was taken to the Casualty Clearing Station at St Julian where he died the following day. He was buried in the Vlamertinghe Churchyard; Private Lynn’s grave was later destroyed by shellfire and its exact location lost, but a memorial headstone stands in Grootebeek British Cemetery. He was also posthumously awarded the Russian Cross of the Order of St George 4th Class.
John, from Catford, was 27 years old and engaged to be married.