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William James (Bill) Lynas (1886–1947)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

William Lynas, n.d.

William Lynas, n.d.

photo supplied by Bill Lynas

William James Dalton (Bill) Lynas (1886-1947), miner and soldier, was born on 20 December 1886 at Auckland, New Zealand, son of Irish-born Thomas Reid Ward Lynas, engineer, and his wife Ellen Kate, née Dalton, born in Paris. After his father was appointed manager of a Western Australian sawmill about 1901 William was educated at Busselton. On leaving school he worked in grocery and briefly managed a store at Brookton. He probably moved to the Marble Bar district following a tin rush in 1906; in 1910 he was employed as a storeman on a mine at Moolyella.

In September 1914 Lynas enlisted in the 16th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, and sailed for Egypt in December. He served throughout the Gallipoli campaign as a signaller, and was promoted lance corporal, then second lieutenant in January 1916. He was engaged in Egypt until June, then went with his battalion to France. A lieutenant from April he won the Military Cross in August near Pozières for a dangerous reconnaissance as intelligence officer and the capture of thirty prisoners. Later that month at Mouquet Farm, his work in preparing an attack and leading stretcher parties won him a Bar to the M.C. Promoted captain in April 1917, he spent six months with a training battalion in England but, on hearing that his unit was in action again, illegally rejoined it. In June and July 1918, although wounded, he distinguished himself near Hamel when his management of a very successful raid brought a second Bar to his M.C. and his leadership in a major attack won him the Distinguished Service Order. In December he was mentioned in dispatches.

Lynas sailed for Australia in February 1919 and when his A.I.F. appointment ended in June was placed on the reserve of officers, Australian Military Forces, as a captain. He returned immediately to Moolyella. While overseas he had investigated mining developments and, backed by English money, took up tin-dredging in partnership with W. Atkins. He also became an agent for Copley's Bank of London in buying base metals and mined for asbestos. As the post-war boom in metals subsided, so did Moolyella. Lynas sought concessions from the State government in 1924 and when the application failed altered his occupation on the electoral roll from miner in 1926 to philosopher in 1928: he was so designated for the rest of his life. Friends who knew him at this time described him as 'a wild spirit' and 'a terrible tease' with 'a touch of larrikinism'.

In June 1940 Lynas was recalled to full-time military duty and went to the Middle East in April and May as an A.I.F. troopship adjutant. During a second voyage in September and October he was injured on board and his appointment was terminated on medical grounds in April 1942. On 4 August 1944, in the Perth registry office, he married a divorced saleswoman, Enid Kathleen Coates, née Mawkes.

Lynas and his wife settled at Nullagine in the Pilbara district and on 1 September 1945 he was appointed part-time secretary of the local roads board. Survived by his wife, he died of coronary vascular disease at Nullagine on 12 January 1947 and was buried there. Charles Bean wrote that 'Bill' Lynas was 'one of the finest fighting leaders that Australia produced … a man whose name was constantly coupled with those of Harry Murray, Percy Black and Albert Jacka'. The combination of military decorations he won is extremely rare.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Longmore, The Old Sixteenth (Perth, 1929)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Aug 1931
  • Pastoralist and Grazier, July 1963
  • Pilbara Goldfields News, 12 May 1906, 10 June, 22 July, 5, 12 Aug, 28 Oct 1919, 2 Mar, 21 Sept, 5 Oct, 16 Nov 1920, 3, 27 Sept, 11 Oct 1921, 25 July, 19 Sept 1922
  • Western Australian. Mines Dept, file 535/24, 1924, and Nullagin Roads Board, district minutes, Acc.1278/6 (State Library of Western Australia).

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Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Lynas, William James (Bill) (1886–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Lynas, n.d.

William Lynas, n.d.

photo supplied by Bill Lynas

Life Summary [details]


20 December, 1886
Auckland, New Zealand


12 January, 1947 (aged 60)
Nullagine, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

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Military Service