Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Battle of Jutland - The Bravest 16-year-old

The Battle of Jutland was the largest naval battle of World War One, fought between 31 May and 1 June 1916. The battle is described as an ambush by the German High Seas Fleet on the British Royal Navy. During the incredibly bloody and catastrophic battle, Britain lost 14 ships and over 6000 men. The Germans lost 11 ships and over 2500 men. 

There have been commemorations yesterday and today to mark the centenary of the battle, and to remember those brave young men lost. 

For more information of the Battle of Jutland, and the Centenary Commemorations:

After the battle, one particular sailor was remembered above the others. He became a sort of poster boy for the Navy and stood for stoic British spirit and determination. His name was Jack Cornwell

Jack was born John Travers Cornwell on 8 January 1900. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in October 1915, aged only fifteen, and was posted to HMS Chester the following year. 

On the first day of the Battle of Jutland, HMS Chester was sent to investigate gunfire. The ship came under rather intense and terrible gunfire itself, from four German cruisers. Jack was on the gun mounting with other men, and was the sole survivor after all the gun's crew were killed or fatally wounded. 

When medics got to the ship, they found Jack seriously injured, with shards of steel and shell piercing his body. He was still awaiting his orders. Clearly dying, he was sent to Grimsby General Hospital, where he died on 2 June 1916, before his mother arrived to see him. Jack Cornwell was only 16-years-old. 

Jack Cornwell was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration. 

To find out more about Boy Jack, please watch the video below, to discover his story as told by his family:

After his death, the "Jack Cornwell" Ward was set up at the Star and Garter Home, Richmond, to be reserved for disabled sailors. The ward needed money to work and operate, so the Navy League set up a system where every boy and girl attending school in Britain could pay 1d in support. In exchange, the child received a flag or stamp-sized badge of Jack

21 September 1916 was known as Jack Cornwell Day. September 1916 was also the launch month of the fundraising appeal. The total raised overall was £18,000 - an incredible amount, equal to around £1.5 million in today's money.

In the pages of my Great Auntie Nellie's birthday book, is a badge of Jack Cornwell, in aid of the ward named in his honour. It's unbelievable to think that my family were part of such a historic event.

From Auntie Nellie's birthday book.

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