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SA 5111      Trooper Thomas Francis Ryan – 8th Contingent, New Zealand Mounted Rifles.
 
Thomas was born in Tawa Flat on 19th July 1877 the seventh of nine children, and fourth son born to Martha and Denis Ryan.
 
Thomas’ younger brother Denis Joseph Ryan had served as a Trooper with the 1st Contingent and had died, from disease, in October 1900 on his return from South Africa. Thomas was a single man farming on his father’s farm at Tawa Flat when he enlisted, on 3rd January 1902, in A Company, North Island, 8th Contingent. SA5111 Trooper Thomas Ryan sailed for South Africa on the 29th January 1902. Also sailing with the 8th Contingent was SA5394 Trooper George Frederick Sievers from Makara.
 
 
 
8th Contingent, New Zealand Mounted
Rifles departs New Zealand 
 
 
 
In South Africa the 8th Contingent suffered their
heaviest casualties in a train accident on 12th
April 1902 when 14 members of the contingent
were killed and a large number injured.
 
The 8th Contingent’s involvement in the war was
short and in July 1902 they sailed back to New
Zealand where they were disbanded and Thomas
went back to farming at Tawa Flat.
 
Thomas was awarded the Kings South Africa War medal with year clasp 1902 and provincial clasp Transvaal.
 
On 30th May 1916 Thomas was again in khaki when he entered Trentham camp as 26181 Private Thomas Francis Ryan, F Company, 17th Reinforcements. During Thomas’s medical examination the officer noted that the 39 year old farmer had ‘flat feet, but can cope well, does hard bush work & never tires. I’am sure he ought to be tried.’[i]
(Flat feet was not an issue when you were riding a horse in the 2nd South Africa War – Ed)
 
Following basic training Private Ryan was shipped to England, 21st November 1916, in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 11th Reinforcements, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. On arrival in England the now Rifleman Ryan was placed in the reserve battalion at Sling for more training before being shipped to France and being posted, on 2nd June 1917 to D Company,
4th Battalion, 3rd Regiment New Zealand Rifle Brigade. The New Zealand Division had been in training for the Battle of Messines. Private Ryan with his company was part of the successful assault on the Messines Ridge launched on the 6th June 1917. Private Ryan was wounded on the 15th June 1917, gunshot wound to the right arm, and evacuated to England for treatment. Private Ryan was again in France on 2nd November 1917 when he was attached to B Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment NZRB. 
 
In March 1917 the Germans launched a spring offensive, Operation Michael, to defeat the Allies on the Western Front
prior to American forces being deployed in France. The NZ Division was pushed forward to plug a gap on the Somme Front that had formed between the French and British armies. It was during confused fighting in this sector that Private Ryan was again wounded, on 27th March 1917, this time a gunshot wound to his face and ear. He was evacuated to the rear, treated and less than a month later was back at the front line with his company. In the next major attack the New Zealand Division, of which the NZRB was as part, was committed to the Battle of Bapaume, 21st August – 1 September 1918.
 
It was on the final day of the Battle that Private Ryan was killed along with six others in B company, 1st Battalion,
3rd Regiment NZRB; 54734 Rifleman Foster, 25/1737 Rifleman Going, 68535 Rifleman Jones, 69381 Rifleman Scullion, 23/912 Lance Corporal Smith and  39124 Rifleman Torres. All men are buried close together in the Bancourt British Cemetery, Pas de Calais. France.
 
Private Ryan’s medals were sent to his mother in Tawa Flat who now had lost two of her sons in  overseas wars.
 
 
Notes:
Private and Trooper are both used in military files and newspaper items for consistency Trooper is used for Porirua stories
See SA82 Trooper Denis Joseph Ryan’s story
 
References:
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: SA5111 Trooper Thomas Francis Ryan
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 26181 Private Thomas Francis Ryan
NZ Births, Death & Marriages Online
NZ Units in South Africa - Boer War Online
 
Photos:
8th Contingent NZHistory Online
 
 
[i] Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 26181 Rifleman Thomas Francis Ryan
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
8th Contingent, NZMR depart New Zealand