The Battle of Jutland: How hero Jack Cornwell became the most famous 16-year-old in Britain
Do you recognise this boy?
He was the most famous 16-year-old in Britain 100 years ago.
His name is Jack Cornwell, a boy gunner in the Royal Navy of 1916 and the youngest ever recipient of the Victoria Cross.
He’s also my great-great-uncle.
Jack was an ordinary boy from London and he joined the navy in the First World War when he was just 15.
Six weeks after joining he found himself in the middle of the biggest clash of warships the world had ever seen at the Battle of Jutland.
His ship, HMS Chester, was hit 18 times by German shells, four of which landed near Jack’s gun.
The attacks killed all but two of the gun’s crew and left Jack severely wounded.
But he stayed at his gun awaiting orders, until HMS Chester withdrew from the battle.
When taken for treatment there was little the ship’s surgeons or hospital doctors could do, and he died on June 2, 1916, before his mother Lily could reach his bedside.
A report from the Commanding Officer of HMS Chester said: “Boy (1st Class) John Travers Cornwell of the Chester was mortally wounded early in the action.
“He nevertheless remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders until the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded all round him.”
Jack’s military funeral was the largest public event of the entire war and he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
As this year marks 100 years since the Battle of Jutland, all I would ask is, don’t forget Jack and those who fell alongside him.