Address for John Ryan VC statue unveiling at Richmond Park, Tumut, 30 September 2018
My Federal Parliamentary friend and colleague, Member for Eden Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly AM. Snowy Valleys Council Mayor James Hayes OAM. Commandant of the Home of the Soldier, Blamey Barracks, Kapooka – Colonel Mick Garraway AM. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls
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.