Remembering the Great War

Remembering the Great War

Words by Jill Fenwick, Committee member East Melbourne Historical Society

On November 11 every year we remember the dead of the Great War and especially our Australian dead, those young men who, in loyalty to England and with a sense of adventure joined up in their thousands, leaving behind families, jobs, friends and thinking they’d be “home by Christmas”.

It was not to be: of the 60,000 Australians who fought at Gallipoli, 26,000 became casualties and 7594 were killed. This is the story of one of them, a young man called Stanley Lyons, who came to live in East Melbourne in 1913.


Stanley Lyons was a fine young man, described as “a brave, bright, honourable boy and one of the first to answer his country’s call” by his foster mother, Frances Sheppard, and as “a bright, manly and truthful boy” by his “Auntie”, Susannah Taylor.


In truth, he had no relations, but he was also loved by a third woman, his landlady in East Melbourne, Mrs Berkeley, whom he nominated as his next of kin.

Frances Sheppard, in a letter to the army authorities, told his story: “The boy Stanley Lyons was an illegitimate child – his father not known – his mother left him when an infant with some people in Hindley St, Adelaide – deserted him and went to Western Australia ... the boy was brought to the State Children’s Department and placed under my care. I mothered him and looked after him for years.”

In another letter, she told more of his story: “He absconded from the factory where he was working: Messrs. Pengellys of Edwardstown, because the foreman there told him he was only a bastard. He left a letter to me telling me he had gone to Melbourne to get work where he was not known, as no boy could stand that; he went away to make a name for himself and serve his country.” Susannah Taylor concurred: “He was a state illegitimate boy ... he always looked on her (Frances Sheppard) as mother and I, who was Sub-Matron, as Auntie. We dearly loved the lad.”

In Melbourne, he found a job as a driver, and a home at 13 Agnes St, Jolimont, with Mrs Berkeley. He enlisted at Carlton on August 15, 1914.

He was a tall boy, 5’11”, with dark brown hair, aged just over 18 when he enlisted, Church of England by religious persuasion. He lied on his enlistment application, claiming to be 21. He had served two-and-a-half years with the Senior Cadets, B Company, Adelaide, so he already had some military experience.

After enlisting, he trained at Broadmeadows and was taken on strength with the 7th Battalion, B Company AIF, consisting of 30 officers and 940 men.

On October 19, 1914, the Battalion left on HMAT Hororata, one of 28 troopships from Australia, while another 10 ships conveyed New Zealand troops. The convoy stopped in Columbo, before arriving in Egypt for further training, then headed off to the Gallipoli Peninsula via the island of Lemnos, where further preparations for the Anzac landing were made before leaving for Anzac Cove on April 24.

Stan Lyons would have been part of the second wave of soldiers landing at Anzac Cove on April 25, though his service record does not reflect this, nor that the 7th Battalion was then assigned to defending the area they won. On May 6, however, the Second Brigade, of which the 7th Battalion formed part, was brought in to relieve the exhausted British troops fighting at Krithia, a poorly thought out campaign to open the way to the Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles.

Instead, the campaign was a bloodbath for the British troops and, following them in the second battle of Krithia (May 6-8), the New Zealanders and Australians. The greatest advance achieved was only 600 yards and the allies were met with strong Turkish resistance.

In the belief that the Turks would be disorganised and poorly armed, the allied soldiers were ordered to run over open ground towards the Turkish positions. Medical provisions for the wounded, said one report, “were woeful”, as there was no point of collection for the wounded or vehicles to take them back to base, so stretcher bearers had to remove them one by one to take them to medical tents. 

Stanley Lyons did not die in the assault on Krithia, but his appointment as Lance Corporal on May 14 reflects the losses suffered by his battalion. The 7th Battalion then retreated to Anzac Cove, defending the beach head and it is here that he met his death. His army record is brief: made Lance Corporal in one entry, the next records his death on May 21, 1915. There was no battle as such, so he probably died from a random bullet or shell.

It seems ironic that he had survived both the landing at Anzac Cove and Krithia, only to die when his battalion was out of the front line, some sources say “resting”. He was buried at Brown’s Dip Cemetery the same day he died, in Row 4 on May 21.

Stanley Lyons’ body was disinterred in 1923 and reburied at the Lone Pine Cemetery. His name is listed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in the Roll of Honour Cards 145 and on Panel 50 in the Commemorative Area. His possessions were sent back: one pocketbook; one testament; some photos. He was only 19 •

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.

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