LYNAS Ralph 1894 – 1917

RALPH LYNAS 1894 – 1917

39428 Private Ralph Lynas, 15th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 23 August 1917, aged 23.  He is buried at Croisilles British Cemetery, France[1] and commemorated on Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

Ralph Lynas was born 1894[2] at Witton-le-Wear, the son of John and Charlotte Lynas.  There were 9 children, including:[3]

  • Elizabeth bc.1878
  • Alice bc.1881
  • John W. bc.1883 at Redcar, North Yorkshire
  • Joseph bc.1886 at Loftus, North Yorkshire
  • Annie bc.1891 at Witton-le-Wear, County Durham
  • Ralph born 1894 at Witton-le-Wear
  • Margaret bc.1899 at Witton-le-Wear
  • Thomas bc.1902 (birthplace unrecorded)

In 1901, the family lived at John Street, Witton Park where 43 years old John senior worked as a railway signalman.  John junior, aged 18 was a labourer in a coal mine and Joseph, aged 15 was a cartman (own account).[4]  By 1911, the family lived still lived at John Street, John senior still worked as a NER signalman, Joseph, aged 25 and 17 years old Ralph were both recorded as, “general cartman (own account)”, Margaret and Thomas were still at school and 19 years old Annie was occupation was described as, “Domestic duties at home” thus helped her 48 years old mother, Charlotte with, “home duties.”[5]  In March 1916, Ralph Lynas married Charlotte Davis.  They lived at 55 Low Albion Street, Witton Park.[6]

Ralph Lynas, cartman

Military Details

11 December 1915, Ralph Lynas attested.  He joined the Durham Light Infantry, was given the service number 39428 and posted to the Army Reserve.  He was then 21 years old, worked as a cartman and lived at John Street, Witton Park, later at 55 Low Albion Street, Witton Park.[7]  He stood 5’3½” tall and his religion was recorded as Church of England.

16 November 1916: Private R. Lynas was mobilised and posted to 4/DLI.

DLI Cap Badge

20 November 1916: The Officer Commanding, 4/DLI wrote to the Officer Commanding, Depot, Durham Light Infantry returning Private R. Lynas and confirming that he had not been, “taken on strength” because, “he is not likely to be fit for General Service for 3 months.  Attached is Medical Officer’s report and as there is no place here where he can receive adequate treatment, I shall be obliged if you will post him where he can receive necessary treatment.” [8] No indication of his illness was reported.

9 February 1917: He embarked at Folkestone, arriving at Boulogne, France the next day.  He was immediately posted to 14/DLI in the field.

16 February 1917: Private R. Lynas made out his will leaving all his possessions to his wife, Charlotte (55 Low Albion Street, Witton Park).[9]

3 March 1917: He was reposted to 15/DLI in the field and joined the battalion the next day.[10]

15/DLI was formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army.  It came under the orders of the 64 Brigade, 21st Division [11] together with:

  • 9th Bn., King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI)
  • 10th Bn., KOYLI
  • 14th Bn., Durham Light Infantry (DLI)
  • 1st Bn., East Yorkshire Regiment (EYR)
  • 64th Machine Gun Company (MGC) joined 4 March 1916
  • 64th Trench Mortar Battery (TMB) joined 16 June 1916

The Division landed in France at Boulogne 11 September 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front seeing action at the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915 and various phases of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. [12]  From March 1917, whilst Private R. Lynas served with 15/DLI it was to see action as follows:[13]

The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line: 14 March-5 April

The Arras Offensive:

  • 1st Battle of the Scarpe: 9-14 April
  • 2nd Battle of the Scarpe: 23-24 April
  • Bullecourt: 3-17 May

15/DLI at the Battle of Arras is noteworthy since one of its number Private M. Heaviside was awarded the VC for his actions, 6 May 1917. 

The next major engagement was during the Third Battle of Ypres – the Battle of Polygon Wood, 26 September to 3 October.  Private R. Lynas was killed a month earlier when posted to a quiet sector of the line, the Fontaine sector, a sub-sector of the Hindenburg Line, to the right of the Sensee River.

The battalion war diary reports that 15/DLI relieved 8/Leicester Regt. and it held the line between 1 and 6 August when relieved by 1/Lincs.  A German raid took place on the 3rd but was driven back.  From 7 to 9, the battalion was at St. Leger, training.  From 10 to 15 August, 15/DLI was at Croisilles – Bullecourt, in the Brigade support, providing working parties.  On the 16th, it relieved 9/KOYLI and took over Pelican and Knuckle Trenches, in the Croisilles sector.  Nothing of note was recorded in the war diary until the 24th when gas was sent over the enemy lines.  15/DLI was relieved by the 6/Royal Irish Rifles on the 26 August.[14]  Even in this quiet sector, there were 16 casualties (1 officer and 15 other ranks) during the month of August including 39428 Private R. Lynas and 31704 Private H. Vasey on 23 August, both killed in action.[15]  It is assumed that the usual violence of warfare – shelling, rifle grenades and sniping accounted for their lives.

Private R. Lynas served a total of 1 year 256 days, 1 year 61 days at home and 195 days in France.[16]

Awards and Medals

Private Ralph Lynas was awarded the Victory and British War medals.[17]

Medal Roll Card Index

Burial [18]

Private Ralph Lynas, 15/DLI was killed I action 23 August 1917 and is buried at grave reference II.B.2, Croisilles British Cemetery.[19]


Ralph Lynas’ widow Charlotte received his effects[20] and pension.


Ralph, born in Witton Park, was one of nine children born to John and Charlotte Lynas. In 1901 when he was aged seven, the family lived at 11 John Street and his father worked as a railway signalman. Ten years later they were still in John Street (now number 26) and Ralph was a general cartman. He enlisted on December 11th 1915, aged twenty-one and eleven months at Bishop Auckland and later married Charlotte Davis in February 1916 at St. Paul’s Church. In November of the same year he was mobilised and eventually left Folkestone on February 9th 1917, landing in Boulogne the next day. 39428 Private Ralph Lynas, 15th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 23 August 1917, aged 23.  He is buried at Croisilles British Cemetery, France.  His belongings were sent to Charlotte at 55 Low Albion Street and included letters, photographs, cards, a cigarette case, pencils, a razor and two religious books. 


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10 p.238 Auckland 1894 Q1

[3] Army Form W.5080, 1901 & 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] England & Wales Marriage Index Vol.10a p.403 Auckland 1916 Q1 & Army Form, Information provided by recruit

[7] Army Form B.2512

[8] Letter dated 20 November 1916

[9] Letter dated 16 February 1915

[10] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service


[12] http://www.warpath.orbat/battles_ff/1915.htm

[13] http://www.warpath.orbat/battled_ff/1917.htm

[14] 15/DLI War Diary for August 1917

[15] Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War

[16] Military History Sheet

[17] Medal Roll card index and Roll of Individuals entitled to the V and BW medals dated 8 May 1920 Note: his battalion was recorded as 14/DLI not 15/DLI.

[18] CWGC

[19] CWGC Army Form W.3372 Note: his battalion was recorded as 15/DLI

[20] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.555649 and Pension Claimant card index Note: his battalion was recorded as 15/DLI