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Eric Lyon, 1889 - 1918

Eric Lyon was killed in action at Havrincourt, France on 29 September 1918. He was aged 29. He is buried at Fifteen Ravine British Cemetery, Villers-Plouich, France.

Eric was born in Wellington on 26 May 1889. His parents were Edith Mary and William Deans Lyon and he was the second of three brothers. He went to Wellington's Terrace School and achieved excellent academic results, winning one of six Queen's scholarships given by the Victoria College Council for primary school pupils in 1903. This enabled him to attend Wellington College. The Victoria College Council agreed in September 1905 to recommend to the Minister of Education acceptance of his application for an extra year's tuition at Wellington College. 

At Wellington College Lyon continued his excellent academic performance. He passed the scholarship exam with credit in January 1906, and then in January 1907 he passed the Junior scholarship with the seventh highest marks in New Zealand. This enabled him to attend Victoria University College in 1907 and he studied law, achieving high marks throughout the degree. 

Lyon was active in sports and student affairs while at university. He captained the Third Fifteen of the Victoria Rugby Club in 1908. In 1909 and 1910 he was a member of the Students' Association executive and Rugby Club secretary. In his final year, 1910, he was also vice-president of the Men's Common Room Club. He completed his LLB at the end of 1910 and was capped on 27 June 1911.

Throughout his life Lyon was an enthusiastic actor and reciter. His father, who died in May 1909, had been one of the leading lights of the Wellington Amateur Operatic Society and its chief comic artist, and Eric Lyon obviously shared his father's passion. He appeared in numerous amateur dramatic productions in Wellington and was a pupil of the renowned Mabel Hardinge-Maltby who ran an elocution and drama school. Lyon had a preference for comic roles, an Evening Post review of a performance in August 1908 noting that Mr Eric Lyon "did excellently as a reminiscent landlady with very auburn hair and a great garrulousness."

While studying law Lyon was articled to the Wellington firm of Kirk and Wilson. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor on 28 April 1911 by the Chief Justice on the motion of Mr RC Kirk. A report on newly-qualified Wellington lawyers in the Free Lance commented: "Mr Lyon, who is with Kirk and Wilson is a smart young student, who has also passed the final solicitor's examination, and the first LLB section."

Shortly afterwards, in June 1911, the Kirk and Stevens partnership at its Otaki office was dissolved and Lyon went into partnership with Mr Kirk, Kirk and Lyon practising from Aotaki Street. Lyon was prominent in the region's theatrical activities. He competed in numerous elocution competitions, appeared with the Levin Dramatic Society, and gave recitals. At one, in Levin's Century Hall as a fundraiser for St Mary's Church, the local newspaper reported his act: "Mr Eric Lyon gave a recitation describing various reciters' efforts to interpret The Wreck of the Hesperus. The recitation was capitally done, and the audience was convulsed with the example of a reciter whose beverage had been decidedly stronger than water, and who, as a natural consequence, became considerably mixed in metaphor and idea."

In May 1912 Lyon left Otaki and moved to Tauranga where he set up in legal practice by himself, practising from Norris and Bell's Buildings. He was there until December 1912 when he moved to Waverley to run the branch office of the Wanganui firm Bullock, Currie and Douglas. While in Tauranga he was heavily involved with the Anglican church as Superintendent of the Sunday School and a lay reader. After a stay at Waverley he moved to Christchurch to practise with  Russell and Anthony.

On 22 November 1913 Lyon married Edith Annie Wheeler at St Michael and All Angels' Church in Christchurch. The couple had one son, William Stuart who was born on 21 November 1914 but died aged three and a half.

Lyon's last legal move occurred on 1 January 1916 when he was admitted into partnership with the Hereford Street-based Kippenberger, Franks and Hunter. The firm was renamed Franks, Hunter and Lyon.

He enlisted in the armed forces in November 1916, going into camp in January 1917 with the 24th Reinforcements of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment. His medical examination on enlistment reported he had brown eyes and brown hair, was 5 foot 7 inches (1.7 metres) tall and weighed 147 pounds (66.6 kg). He was promoted to Corporal and embarked from Wellington on 26 April 1917, the transport stopping for a few days in Sydney and then proceeding to Devonport in England on 28 July 1917.

After two months in England Lyon arrived in France on 23 September 1917. Apart from two weeks' leave in England from 12 to 30 August 1918 he saw continuous service with the infantry. He was killed in action on 29 September 1918 during the advance on La Vacquerie.

In its Memorial Number, the Victoria University College magazine The Spike described Lyon as "a straightforward, manly type - one who had left his mark at Victoria College, and his loss is keenly felt by those who knew him and loved him for his keen vigour and his sterling character." Another tribute which appeared in newspapers around New Zealand at news of his death said he was a man of sterling character "and exceptional ability, and was highly respected by all with whom he came in contact."

Sources: Evening Post, 19 December 1900, page 3; Evening Post, 4 November 1902, page 4; Evening Post, 22 January 1903, page 5; Evening Post, 21 September 1905, page 5; Evening Post, 23 January 1906, page 5; Evening Post, 22 January 1907, page 2; Dominion, 1 October 1907, page 5; Evening Post, 27 August 1908, page 2; Dominion, 28 October 1908, page 8; Dominion, 20 December 1910, page 6; Free Lance, 24 December 1910, page 4; Evening Post, 28 April 1911, page 7; Dominion, 6 June 1911, page 2; Dominion, 28 June 1911, page 8; Horowhenua Chronicle, 25 November 1911, page 2; Dominion, 17 May 1912, page 5; Bay of Plenty Times, 10 July 1912, page 4; Bay of Plenty Times, 2 December 1912, page 4; Waiapu Church Gazette, 1 January 1913, page 110; Colonist, 28 April 1913, page 5; Free Lance, 22 November 1913, page 14; Press, 13 January 1916, page 1; Press, 22 November 1916, page 7; Colonist, 18 January 1917, page 4; Press, 18 October 1918, page 8; Dominion, 19 October 1918, page 6; Bay of Plenty Times, 21 October 1918, page 23; The Spike, War Memorial Number, 1920, page 29. 

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph soldier profile.

This obituary has been prepared by the New Zealand Law Society to preserve the memory of members of the legal profession who died while serving in World War I.

Lawyers Roll of Honour.

By Geoff Adlam, New Zealand Law Society. Further information is welcomed: geoff.adlam@lawsociety.org.nz

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Last updated on the 15th December 2014