Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Vivian William Lalor (1895–1960)

by J. G. Williams

This article was published:

Vivian William Lalor (1895-1960), soldier and carpenter, was born on 29 November 1895 at Healesville, Victoria, eldest of nine children of William James Lalor, labourer and later a Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works ranger, and his wife Ann Matilda, née Madden, both native born. He attended school at Gruyere and became a labourer.

Lalor enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Melbourne in February 1916 and embarked for service on the Western Front on 4 May. In January 1917 he was taken on strength of 'Jacka's Mob', the 14th Battalion. Courageous and level-headed, he was made lance corporal in May and corporal in October. He won his first Military Medal in the battle of Polygon Wood, Belgium, on 26 September when he engaged enemy machine-guns with his Lewis-gun, thereby allowing his company to consolidate its defence after taking an objective.

His second Military Medal was awarded for a similar action near Morcourt, east of Corbie, France, on 8 August 1918 when he covered the advance of his platoon and 'neutralized enemy fire on three separate occasions'. At the end of the great advance that day he inflicted heavy casualties on the retiring enemy. He received his last major decoration in the fighting for the Hindenburg outpost line, being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for 'conspicuous gallantry' near Ascension Wood on 18 September. Although his company was suffering heavy casualties and three men of his section were wounded, he rushed ahead and brought his Lewis-gun into action, covering the company's advance. Pushing ahead, he then silenced two enemy machine-guns and late in the advance displayed great tactical skill in the use of his gun. He worked forward several times into shell-holes to engage enemy machine-guns and was largely responsible for his company reaching its objective with relatively few casualties. Lalor suffered a gunshot wound in the intestine that day.

Invalided to Australia in December he was discharged from the A.I.F. on 11 March. Returning to Healesville, he trained as a carpenter, and later worked for a local builder. He then moved to Eaglehawk and took over a mixed retail business. He married Annie Grace, née Benfield, a confectioner and a widow with three children, on 25 September 1930 at St Kilian's Catholic Church, Bendigo. In the 1950s he moved to Canberra, working as a carpenter with the Department of the Interior, and then to Ingleburn, New South Wales. He died there of heart disease on 29 May 1960 and was buried with Catholic rites in Campbelltown cemetery. His wife had predeceased him.

Vivian Lalor was a typical digger who did not stand much on ceremony. He did not receive the 'promised' pension despite many appeals; he stayed away from Anzac Day parades and like so many diggers seldom, if ever, spoke about his war experiences. His medals are held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Wanliss, The History of the Fourteenth Battalion, A.I.F. (Melb, 1929)
  • E. J. Rule, Jacka's Mob (Syd, 1933)
  • London Gazette, 14 Dec 1917, 24 Jan, 18 Feb 1919
  • war diary, 14th Battalion, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • records( Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

J. G. Williams, 'Lalor, Vivian William (1895–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 November, 1895
Healesville, Victoria, Australia


29 May, 1960 (aged 64)
Ingleburn, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.