Joseph Lynch GC BEM (AM exchanger)

b. 06/11/1912 Wallasey, Cheshire. d. 07/10/2006 The Wirral.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 26/02/1948 Port Stanley, Falkland Islands.

Joseph Lynch (1912-2006) was born on November 6th 1912 in the Poulton area of Wallasey, in Cheshire (now Merseyside). He was the son of Bernard and Esther Lynch (nee Downey). He was educated at Somerville School at Wallasey, but left at the age of 15 to work as a shop assistant and fitter. In May 1929 he joined the Royal Navy on a regular engagement. Joseph Lynch married his wife Elizabeth “Betty” Bennett in 1939; she and their son Joe predeceased him. During the Second World War he served in the Atlantic and north-west Europe.

Joseph Lynch GC BEM

In 1942, while serving in the destroyer Wallace, Lynch was awarded the British Empire Medal. Wallace had been taken out of reserve at the outbreak of war and deployed on convoy protection duty in the Channel and the North Sea. At that stage of the war the RAF was busy defending London, the south ports and their own airfields, and could provide only sporadic cover. It was dangerous work for the Navy, for however closely the ships hugged the coast the German aircraft had no difficulty in finding and bombing them.

During attacks by the Luftwaffe, the merchant ships took evasive action by changing bearing at short intervals while the destroyers engaged the aircraft with their Bofors guns. In one such attack Lynch was at the port rail when he saw one of the merchantmen veering towards Wallace on a collision course. In the few seconds available, he dashed to the starboard side and braced himself for the crash. Steam jetted from the destroyer’s boiler with the force of impact. The moment that this subsided, Lynch made his way below. He found that one man had been killed outright; the stoker petty officer and two others had been scalded and dazed.

Lynch assisted each of the injured men to the foot of the boiler-room ladder and into the hands of helpers. Back on deck, he heard the first lieutenant calling for two volunteers to check the bulkhead and the timber shoring in the vicinity of the point of impact. Lynch went below again and found the damaged section of the bulkhead behind the boiler. He crawled underneath and, calling to a seaman to pass the baulks through to him, jammed these into place. Throughout he was aware that he had no chance of escape from drowning should the hull give way and let in the sea. The hull held, and eventually Wallace limped into port. Lynch was invested with the BEM by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on March 16th 1943.

Five years later, on the night of February 26th 1948 the Cruiser “Nigeria” was lying at anchor at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. While disembarking from the motor cutter at the port boom, a rating, Leading Seaman Hughes, missed his footing on the Jacob’s ladder and fell into the sea. It was dark, and the wind was blowing a fresh gale. The sea was rough, and its temperature was 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Hughes managed to keep hold of the ladder but, as he was dressed in heavy oilskins, he was unable to pull himself up — nor could he make for the cutter for fear of the very cold sea and the danger of sinking in his cumbersome clothing.

Lynch was sitting in his mess when he heard the pipe for the lifeboat. He ran up on deck, dressed only in a singlet and trousers. Sizing up the situation at once, he made his way along the boom, down the ladder and into the water alongside Hughes. He persuaded Hughes to let go of the ladder and then got an arm around him. At that moment, the seaman lost consciousness, making it impossible for Lynch to do more than support him. One of the ship’s motorboats was lowered but, because of the heavy swell, it could get no closer than 20 yards to the two men.

Lynch slipped into the sea and, using the swell to help him, swam with the unconscious man to the motorboat. After a struggle the crew managed to haul Hughes into the boat — but Lynch, having nothing to hold on to, and determined not to hamper the crew’s efforts, had swum back to the side of the ship. Lynch found it impossible to reach the Jacob’s ladder against the powerful swell and, seeing that Hughes was now safe, he swam out to the boat a second time and was taken aboard. After a short spell in Nigeria’s sick bay both men recovered from their ordeal.

Lynch was invested with the Albert Medal by the Duke of Gloucester on November 14th 1951. After the AM was revoked by Royal Warrant, he was re-invested with the George Cross by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on February 20th 1973. Lynch spent nearly 25 years in the Navy, retiring as Chief Petty Officer in 1953. After leaving the Navy he worked for Cadbury’s as a production line manager before joining HM Customs and Excise as an executive officer in May 1954. He was based at Liverpool and, for several years, at Heathrow airport; he retired in 1976.

He was a founder member of the Albert Medal Association, a freeman of the Wirral and served as welfare officer of the Wallasey branch of the Royal Naval Association. Some years ago Lynch’s Albert Medal was stolen while it was on display at Wallasey Library. But it later came into the hands of a collector, who returned it to him; it is now in the Imperial War Museum.

Joseph died on 7th October 2006 on the Wirral, and was cremated at Landican Crematorium. His medal group including his GC, BEM, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star with “France and Germany” clasp, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, Royal Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal, and 2002 QEII Golden Jubilee Medal are held proudly by the Lynch family.