THOMAS HENRY LYON
This biography was written by Victoria Doran
Harry Lyon was a brave young Rifleman in the Liverpool Rifles who died just before the Battle of Passchendaele whilst attached to a Liverpool Pals battalion.
As can be seen from the photograph, there was some confusion over his surname. Until his father was an adult all members of the family used ‘Lyons’, but just this small branch of the family used ‘Lyon’.
Thomas Henry Lyon was known as Harry, so that is how this biography will refer to him. He was born about 1896 in Cressington, Liverpool where his father Thomas Lyon (1861-1910) was almost certainly working as a gardener. Cressington Park was a gated estate for wealthy merchants. No record of Harry’s birth has been located.
Thomas Lyon was born in Thelwall, near Runcorn, Cheshire the second child in the large family of Michael Henry (1833-1901) and Catherine Lyons (1837-1904). Both his parents were Irish, his father being from Galway and his mother from Waterford. It is probable, from the names used in the family, that they were Roman Catholic. The family remained in Thelwall, where Michael Henry (who was probably known as Henry) worked as a labourer in the tanning industry.
Thomas Lyon started work as a gardener in Thelwall, initially working in either market or nursery gardening. By 1891 he had moved to Toxteth Park, Liverpool and worked from then on as a domestic gardener. He probably had wealthy employers who had many servants, and possibly more than one property, as on 15 November 1894 he married Rosannah Wood (1861-???) in Windermere, Westmorland. Their marriage is the only known connection of either of them with Westmorland.
Rosannah Wood (also variously known as Rose, Rose Anna and Roseanna) came from Madeley, Shropshire, where her father Thomas Wood (1836-1914) worked as a labourer in the iron industry. After her mother Sarah Ann Tranter (1838-1875) died when Rosannah was about 14 years old, her father remarried and moved to the Tamworth area where he worked as a labourer above ground in collieries. Both sides of her family had lived in Shropshire for several generations, working in collieries and iron works.
Rosannah entered service becoming a housemaid, working in Heath Charnock, Lancashire in 1881 and at Allerton Beeches, Allerton just outside Liverpool in 1891. At Allerton Beeches she was one of 5 indoor servants of Henry Tate, sugar refiner, the 4th son of Henry Tate founder of Tate & Lyle and whose art collection founded what is now Tate Britain.
Harry was born in Liverpool and was an only child. The family moved to 5 Acacia Grove, West Kirby by 1901. After his father’s death on 23 January 1910, Rosannah and Harry moved to 5 Deva Road, West Kirby where Rosannah ran a lodging house. Harry was by then working as an office boy for a coal agent. Rosannah subsequently moved to 23 Bridge Road, West Kirby. Harry was working in the offices of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board when war was declared.
Harry’s military record has not survived so we know little for certain of his actual service.
From this entry in the Book of Remembrance he served as a Rifleman in the 6th Battalion, and was later attached to the 19th (Pals) Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment.
Liverpool Rifles cap badge, as in Harry’s photograph
According to newspaper reports he was a Territorial in the King’s Liverpool Regiment before the war. It is surprising that he did not go overseas until March 1917. Presumably he spent a large part of his service training. Possibly he was not considered fit enough for service at the Front any earlier. He was probably a replacement for those Liverpool Pals killed during the Battle of Arras in the spring of 1917.
Deeside Advertiser 24 August 1917
As can be seen, once given the opportunity he displayed great courage.
He was killed instantaneously by a shell on 27 July 1917 at Zillebeke near Ypres, Belgium aged 21. This was a few days before the start of the Battle of Passchendaele. Although he was buried by his comrades, his grave must have been subsequently obliterated as he is now only recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial and has no known grave.
Menin Gate Memorial
Harry’s father was buried in St Bridget’s church yard, West Kirby and Harry was commemorated on the grave. Sadly the grave is now overgrown and the inscription is no longer readable.
Birth: about 1896 at Cressington, Liverpool, Lancashire
Death: 27 Jul 1917 at Zillebeke, Belgium; killed in action
Addresses: 5 Acacia Grove, West Kirby (01); 5 Deva Road, West Kirby (11); 23 Bridge Road, West Kirby (17)
Occupation: worked in office of Mersey Docks & Harbour Board
Units: 6th (Liverpool Rifles) and 19th (Liverpool Pals) Battalions, Kings Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 243873 Rifleman
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; St Andrew & St Bridget churches, West Kirby; St Bridget church yard, West Kirby
Sources: CWGC, MC, Census: 01, 11, PR, BR, DA, BN, WK, GH