b. 1824 Carlow, Ireland. d. 20/04/1867 Naas, Ireland.
John Lyons (1824-1867) was born in Carlow, County Carlow, Ireland in 1824. He became a painter and decorator before he and his younger brother, Edward, enlisted on the 11th July 1842 into Her Majesty’s 19th Regiment of Foot. For the next 10 years, John served in Malta and Corfu in the Mediterranean, Barbados and St Vincent in the West Indies and Montreal and Ottawa in Canada before returning to England in 1851. For the next three years he served in Winchester, Weymouth and Gosport and with the Grenadier Company at the Tower of London.
With over 900 men of the 19th Regiment of Foot, in 8 companies, he sailed from Portsmouth in May 1854 for Varna in Bulgaria and in September 1854 for Calamita Bay, off the Crimean Peninsula. With the British and French forces, he joined the advance towards the Russian naval base of Sebastopol. He took part in the Battle of Alma on 20th September and the Battle of Inkerman on 5th November 1854.
Private Lyons then joined the trenches in front of the Siege of Sebastopol, and it was there, on 10th June 1855, he would perform the heroic deed which would earn him the Victoria Cross. On that day, a live shell fell into his traverse, and without hesitation, he ran forward, picked up the shell and threw it out of the trench, thus saving the lives of himself and many comrades.
In 1856, his Regiment returned to England, and on 24th February 1857, Lyons was gazetted for the new Victoria Cross. On 26th June that year, he joined 61 other men in proudly attending the first investiture at Hyde Park, where they were personally presented with their VCs by Queen Victoria. At the end of July, less than a month later, Lyons was travelling with his Regiment to Bengal, India and helped to suppress the Indian Mutiny. He was returned to England in 1861 after falling ill and discharged from the Army on medical grounds on 6th December 1862, aged 39.
Lyons spent the next six months in the Royal Hospital in Chelsea recovering from his illness. He was finally released on 14th July 1863. He returned to Carlow in Ireland, but there are no records on what happened to him next. He moved to Naas in County Kildare, where he died on 20th April 1867 aged 44. He has no known grave, though after his death he was the subject of a macabre photograph of his dead corpse in full military uniform and medals propped up in a chair. His VC and other medals were sold at auction in London on 6th July 1897 for £55 and purchased by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Munro, also of the 19th Regiment of Foot, who presented them to his Regiment. The medals are now held and displayed in the Green Howards Museum, Richmond, Yorkshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GREEN HOWARDS MUSEUM, RICHMOND, YORKSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: ABBEY CEMETERY, NAAS, COUNTY KILDARE, IRELAND.
Andrew Swan – Image of the Lyons VC Medal Group at the Green Howards Museum, Richmond, Yorkshire.