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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



05 December 2016

In the second of our series of articles reflecting on Word War 1 local heroes, we remember Sergeant William Edward Lynn who was researched by Cadet Sarah Boyd and Cadet Hollie Burton from Dungannon Detachment Army Cadet Force.

Sgt William Lynn was born on the 3rd July 1895. Between 1911 and 1914, he worked as a general labourer. William’s father was James senior. He was a railway porter in Dungannon railway station and later became a farmer. William’s mother, Elizabeth, was a dress-maker. He had 6 siblings, William being the 2nd youngest.

War with Germany was declared on the 4th August 1914 and William joined the army soon after that. He went to Portadown and joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. All four Lynn brothers joined the army - James junior, Robert, John and William Edward.

On 22nd February William set off for France with his regiment. On the 18th June, he was sent to Manchester hospital to recover from a fractured leg. It is not known how he got the injury. In September 1915, William and John returned home on sick leave, to recover. William returned to the front line and joined Number 16 Platoon, D company, 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. The battle of the Somme began on 1st July 1916 and William took part in the battle until 17th July.

On the 9th July, William wrote the following letter home about his experiences:

“I am in the best of health and spirits, and it is only God above I have to thank for it. I have been through one of the fiercest battles that has been yet, and came through without a scratch, although my comrades fell heavy all around me. 

“The Germans put up a very stubborn fight, and we got it tight enough. It was splendid to see how all the boys went forward with a good heart. We were in a position to see the first lot go forward. Then came our turn, and they fairly let us have it with shells of all calibre, machine guns and rapid fire. 

“About fifty of us held part of the captured German trenches for over twelve hours under a heavy bombardment and repeated bombing attacks from the Germans. It was here I did some good work myself – all the time standing up bombing and carrying in wounded between our line and the German second line. 

“I am pleased to hear I have been recommended. It has gone through to general headquarters. It will be a few months before I hear what the returns will be. I wish I could get a chance of sending some of the souvenirs home that I have. I got a helmet and a gas helmet and lots of other small things, but it will be impossible to keep them all.”

William was recommended for a gallantry award for his actions on 1st July.

On the 17th July, the day that Sergeant Lynn was killed, Number 16 Platoon were occupying a captured German trench. The German artillery was shelling the trench heavily. William had left the safety of the trench, on more than one occasion, to help bring back wounded men from no-man’s land. As he was returning with a stretcher, a nearby shell forced him to take cover. The next German shell was a direct hit. It killed both William and the stretcher bearer instantly.

He was buried in France at Auchonvillers Military Cemetary, near Pozieres. There is a memorial to the four Lynn brothers in the Church of Ireland, Coalisland.


William’s recommendation for a gallantry award was never approved, however his family did receive his service medals after the war.  He was posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Cadets Sarah and Hollie had carried out a lot of research into the Lynn Family prior to giving their presentation and they learnt a huge amount both about World War 1 and about the sacrifices that families all over Northern Ireland made.

Sarah and Hollie won the award for the best Army Cadet Force project, which was presented to them by Colonel Jamie Piggott, Deputy Commander of 38 (Irish) Brigade.