b. 08/03/1892 Chorlton, Manchester. d. 28/11/1941 Mersa Matruh, Egypt.
Graham Thomson Lyall (1892-1941) was born in Chorlton, Manchester, on 8th March 1892, the son of Reverend Robert Henry Lyall and Agnes Lisette Wells of Darwen, Lancashire. He was educated at Nelson Municipal Secondary School, and on leaving school studied mechanical engineering before emigrating to Canada in 1912. Settling initially in Welland, Ontario, he subsequently moved to Chippawa, where he was employed by the Canadian Niagara Power Company in Niagara Falls. While in Canada he became a member of the Orange Institution, joining Enniskillen Loyal Orange Lodge Number 720 in St Catharines, Ontario.
Three days after the declaration of the First World War, Lyall joined the 19th “Lincoln” Regiment in St Catharines, Ontario. He was placed on Active Duty and posted to the Welland Canal Field Force which provided guards along the canal, at hydro electric facilities in the Niagara Peninsula, and at the international bridges to the United States.
Lyall served in the 19th Regiment until September 1915 when he was accepted by the 81st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, which recruited heavily in the Niagara area. He sailed for England with the battalion on 16th May 1916.
The 81st Battalion was broken up in England and its men sent as reinforcements to battalions already in France. The 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles had suffered heavy casualties at Sanctuary Wood, Belgium, on 2nd June 1916, and the next day only 76 out of 702 men answered the roll call. By the end of the month 350 men, Lyall amongst them, joined 4 CMR as reinforcements.
Lyall served with distinction during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916 and during the Battle of Arras, 1917. His leadership potential was recognised and he was sent to Officers’ Training School at Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex. On the completion of his Officer training, Lieutenant Lyall was posted to the 102nd Battalion, C.E.F., which was part of the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade and took part in the Ypres Campaign in 1917 and the Battle of Amiens, 1918.
In September of 1918, the Canadian Corps was tasked to breach the Hindenburg Line on the Canal du Nord in a drive to capture Cambrai. The 102nd would pass through units of the 10th Brigade after they had secured the crossing of the canal and capture the southern flank of Bourlon Wood. It was during this operation that Lyall was awarded the Victoria Cross.
On 27th September 1918 north of Cambrai, France, Lieutenant Lyall led his platoon in the capture of a strong-point, together with 13 prisoners, one field-gun and four machine-guns. Later, leading his men against another strong-point he rushed forward alone and captured the position single-handed, taking 45 prisoners and five machine-guns. The completion of his final objective resulted in the capture of 41 prisoners. On 1st October in the neighbourhood of Blecourt, he captured a strongly defended position which yielded 60 prisoners and 17 machine-guns. During both these operations, on attaining his objectives, Lieutenant Lyall tended the wounded under fire.
King George V presented Lyall with his Victoria Cross on 15th March 1919 at Buckingham Palace. After the war, Lyall married Elizabeth Moffat Frew, and settled in Airdrie, Scotland where he became Managing Director of Aerocrete (Scotland) Limited, a building construction firm. He joined the Territorial Army, and in 1939 was a Major commanding the 3rd AA Division Workshop Company, Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
On outbreak of the Second World War, he was placed on Active Duty and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, proceeding to North Africa in 1940. In October 1941 he was promoted to Colonel and appointed Commanding Officer of the 87th Lines of Communications Sub Area of the 8th Army. He died in his sleep of a heart attack on 28th November 1941 and is buried in the Halfaya Sollum Cemetery, located on the main coastal road from Mersa Matruh, eleven miles from the Libyan border.
His medals including the VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, War Medal 1939-45, King George V Coronation Medal 1911 and King George VI Coronation Medal 1937 are owned by the family. In 2011, on the wishes of the late Mrs. Lyall, the nephew of Colonel Graham Lyall VC handed his uncle’s Victoria Cross medal group on a long-term loan to the Corps of Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers & REME Museum of Technology based at Aborfield, Reading, Berkshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: REME MUSEUM OF TECHNOLOGY, ARBORFIELD, BERKSHIRE. (LOAN)
BURIAL PLACE: HALLFAYA SOLLUM WAR CEMETERY, EGYPT.
PLOT XIX, ROW B, GRAVE 2
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
REME Museum – Image of the Lyall VC Medal Group
Steve Hoar – Lyall VC Stone at Manchester Cenotaph.
Brian Drummond – Image of Lyall’s name on the Freemasons Memorial, London.