Tumut’s Victoria Cross hero Private Jack Francis Ryan was honoured with the official unveiling of his statue in Richmond Park on Sunday.
The statue was unveiled a century to the day from Private Ryan’s courageous and clever actions at the Hindenburg defensive line which earned his the highest bravery award for Commonwealth soldiers.
Megan O’Brien, Jack’s great niece, only found out the unveiling was happening last week, but made the trip with her family from Wollongong.
“We are all extremely proud of him,” she said.
“They have done Jack proud today. He was a quiet man, but he would have liked it.”
Kapooka Commandant Colonel Michael Garraway said it was the great pleasure of Kapooka to be involved in such a fantastic project.
“It is a very fitting monument for a man who demonstrated the highest act of valour,” he said.
“I know our successive state governments, federal governments and the RSL had been generous in committing money to projects like this, but getting grants and pats on the back doesn’t get projects like this off the ground, and they don’t get it sychronised so it can be unveiled on the 100th anniversary, so for the committee; people like Karen Kell, Gus Cox, Tony McAlister, Lyn Devereaux, the Mayor and other people in the Jack Ryan committee, you’ve done a fantastic job here; this is a great monument and you should be really proud of what you’ve done.
“I also think it’s a fantastic gesture to have all the other names of the Tumut men who served around the monument, with Jack at the top. That’s a nice way to recognise the efforts of all local men, but also in particular, have Jack at the top. I know that if all those men were here today, they would want him at the top of the monument, so it’s a fantastic tribute to this great man.
“It is a marvellous opportunity for us to be here today; thank you to the committee for the work you have done.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said; “This day, in this beautiful park in this peaceful town in our wonderful region it is appropriate we commemorate one our greatest.
“Until now, John Ryan has not been accorded the recognition due to him. May he now always be in the hearts and minds of all who visit this location and look upon this memorial, gaze upon its magnificence and read its inscription.
“Under a bond of courage, innovation, integrity, teamwork and, above all, mateship, Jack Ryan and other Riverina Diggers did what was expected of them and so much more in a War that was supposed to end all Wars.
“Tumut has always been proud of its decorated and famous son but, it is fair to say, has not before today paid him the homage he has so thoroughly deserved.
“So today, we gather to ensure we pay the right respect in a way this humble local would not have imagined but perhaps should have been offered by a grateful nation and district during his lifetime.
“Only from today will we be able to truly say, in his memory: “We Remembered, Lest We Forget.” Now and from this day forward this Snowy Valleys community has done Jack proud by putting his name on a plinth of Adelong granite and immortalising him in bronze in a measure of thanks which is long overdue.
“Just as all brave Tumut boys do, Private John Ryan – Service No. 1717 – dared mightily when his men and his country needed him most. A hundred years ago on this very day, Private Ryan went forward, as his citation for gallantry read: ‘with great dash and determination’, saving a particularly dangerous situation when all seemed lost.
“Courage under fire … that’s what they call it when ordinary men, upon instinct, do extraordinary deeds in the heat of battle to singlehandedly win the moment.
“Kangaroos – Wagga Wagga Kangaroos of the 55th Australian Infantry Battalion – made a habit of seizing the day but none did it better than our Jack … Tumut’s Jack.
“Recklessly risking his own life, Jack on the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt rushed the enemy and although being shot in his right shoulder and badly, badly wounded in the attack, he survived the war and eventually returned home after the guns fell silent on the Western Front to end The Great War.
“Yes, the scars of the conflict were then as they are now, not just seen but also unseen and shellshock and stress took a dreadful toll on Jack and many of those who had marched off to war, in the famous and acclaimed words of Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen, “straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow”.
“A hero such as Jack should have been better looked after when his soldiering days were done and, sadly, our little trooper suffered greatly. Now is the time to remember him – to honour him – and ensure that forevermore his name and statue will perpetuate Tumut’s finest – a warrior whose actions and those of all the men and women who have chosen to wear Australia’s military uniform ensure that we live free today.
“Victoria Crosses are rare – they are hard earned and no VC recipient ever showed more valour than this bronzed Aussie. Congratulations to everyone involved in making this happen – especially ANZAC Centenary Committee chairman Barney Hyams, Councillor Cate Cross, Lyn Devereux, Cr Hayes and Karen Kell – for this was very much about Saving Private Ryan and his legacy – for the past, the present and certainly the future.”
Mr McCormack called up Eden-Monaro MP and former soldier Mike Kelly, who said Jack Ryan had left a magnificent legacy in the daily lives of Australians, and challenged those gathered to ask themselves if they had made the most of the opportunities the likes of Jack had given them.
“The committee has done a fantastic job,” he said.
“You are back where you belong. Welcome back Jack.”