Joseph James Lanyon 1894-1916

Joseph “Joe” James Lanyon

Fourth child of John & Jane Lanyon

Born: 1894 Broken Hill, New South Wales

Died: Age 22 on 5 Nov 1916  near Gueudecourt, France

Buried: Body not recovered. Name recorded on the wall of rememberance at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France

Occupation: Labourer then soldier

Prior to WW1 Joe worked in the British Mine at Broken Hill where his father was a shift boss. Joe had  previous service in the 20th Militia before enlisting on 13 April 1916. He embarked for overseas with the 3rd Divisional Cyclist Company from Sydney on 18 May 1916 aboard HMAT Demosthenes (A64). On arrival in France, he transferred to the 1st Infantry Battalion on 29 October 1916 and was killed in action near Gueudecourt, France on 5 November.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Joe are taken from the War Diary of the 1st Infantry Brigade for November 1916. A minor operation was ordered for the lst Brigade to undertake. The purpose of the attack was to capture German trenches in front of the Brigade to place them in a favourable position for a later general attack that was to follow. The first two waves would take Bayonet Trench (the blue line on the map) and the second two waves to push on to capture further trenches up to the green line on the map. Two yellow lines have been inserted to show the planned advance for the Australian 1st Brigade of which the 1st Battalion was part. Joe joined the 1st Battalion on 3 November and died in the early hours of 5 November in it seems his very first battle.

4th Nov

1600 – German frontline bombarded by heavies and 18 pounders. Frontline system is wet and muddy but improving with fine weather.

2200 – Very heavy rain and it is cold. C & D Companies into Assembly trenches. B Company in support, in shell holes. A Company in reserve in Cheese Road.

2330 -Heavy rain. Ground extremely heavy and slippery.

5th Nov

0030 – Shells begin to fall for creeping barrage, fifty yards short of German frontline. C & D Companies advance behind it. The trenches were strongly held, no footing was made and the attack failed.

0104 – Second attack by C, D & B Companies was launched. It suffered the same fate as the first attack. Attack was met with heavy rifle and machine gun fire along with bombs. The enemy artillery was not accurate. They hit their own frontline. Parties were sent out to bring in the wounded.

According to the diary record casualties were as follows:

Officers 2 killed 4 missing 3 wounded
Other ranks 5 killed 71 missing 81 wounded

From this information it seems that Joe fell in battle either in the first or second attempt to take Bayonet Trench. The casualty form below indicates that his body was retrieved and buried on the battlefield 450 yards NNW of Gueudecourt. His place of burial was lost, most probably due to the changing nature of the the battle zone through World War 1.  A few comments found on the Great War Forum reveals some details about the event and the burials:

Shown on the Service Records of most of these men is that they were listed as “Missing”, then after a Court of Enguiry in 1917 it seems they were declared as killed in action and the comment was added in red : “Buried about 450 yards N.N.W. of Gueudecourt, Sheet 57c S.W. N.20 D.3.7.”

I have found out that all were buried in early March 1917 (after laying out on the field). They were buried where they lay basically. According to eye witness statements there was one cross erected in the middle with 50 names written on it. There were about 20 that were moved to create the battlefield cemetery known as ‘Bayonet Trench Cemetery’. After the war a search was made of the area and it was stated that there was no obvious signs of graves. A couple of years later two 1st battalion soldiers were found and reburied.    Source:

Barrier Miner Fri 8 Dec 1916 p.2 TROVE

Daily Telegraph Mon 11 Dec 1916 p.9 TROVE

Barrier Miner Wed 25 Apr 1945 p.6 TROVE

Photos of Joe’s name engraved on the memorial wall located at Villiers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in France. Photos taken in Oct 2019.


Are there any photos of Joe with his family or his involvement in work? Any photos of Joe would be very welcome and would be inserted into this page.