Historians find VC hero for Darwen

Blackburn Citizen: Lt Graham Thomas Lyall, who won the VC in 1918 Lt Graham Thomas Lyall, who won the VC in 1918

HISTORIANS believe they may have found a Victoria Cross recipient that Darwen can claim as its own.

Although he only spent a short time in the town, newspaper The Darwen News reported after the First World War had ended that Graham Thomson Lyall was the town’s first VC.

The new information has come to light thanks to Darwen historians who were reseaching another veteran of the Great War, James Hargreaves Morton.

Tony Foster, who has done lots of research into the town’s history, said: “I was working with Harold Heys trying to find out about Morton for the book the Friends of Darwen Library published.

“We were looking through old newspaper articles when we stumbled across Graham Lyall.”

Lieutenant Lyall, who was deaf in his left ear due to a swimming incident, was born in Chorlton, Manchester, in 1892.

Mr Foster said: “He was the only son of the Rev Robert Henry, who was curate of St John’s in Darwen, and Agnes Lisette Lyall, who died in 1916 and is buried in Darwen Cemetery.

“Lt Lyall trained as a naval engineer and emigrated to Canada in 1912.

“On the outbreak of the war, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a private, later promoted to sergeant and still later to lieutenant.

“He saw action at Ypres, Arras, the Somme and Passchendaele, and earned the Victoria Cross on September 27, 1918 while leading his platoon in an advance through Bourlon Wood, near Cambrai, France.

“During this action, he captured 80 prisoners and 17 machine guns.”

King George V invested Lieut Lyall with the Victoria Cross on March 15, 1919, at Buckingham Palace and six days later he was in Darwen when the council made a special presentation to him.

He died while on active duty in Egypt during the Second World War on November 28, 1941, and is buried at Halfaya Sollum in that country.

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