Lance Corporal Ryan was born at Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1839 and was approximately 24 years old, and a Lance-Corporal in the 65th Regiment (later The York and Lancaster Regiment), British Army, during the Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand, when the action for which he was awarded The Victoria Cross took place.
The citation from the London Gazette dated 19 January 1864 reads:
"For gallant conduct at the engagement near Cameron-town above referred to. This Non-Commissioned Officer, with Privates Bulford and Talbot, of the same Regiment, who have been recommended for the Medal for distinguished conduct in the Field, for their behaviour on the same occasion, removed the body of the late Captain Swift from the Field of Action, after he had been mortally wounded, and remained with it all night in a bush surrounded by the enemy."
Lance Corporal Ryan was drowned at Tuakau, New Zealand, on 29 December 1864, while trying to rescue a comrade, and is buried at the Alexandra Redoubt Cemetery, New Zealand.
His Victoria Cross is held at the York & Lancaster Regiment Museum, Rotherham, England.