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Memorial to brave sailor opened at Raleigh

13 June 2016
A memorial to Boy Sailor Jack Cornwell who died at the Battle of Jutland has been opened at HMS Raleigh.

The establishment’s parade dais has been refurbished and is now fitted with a glass panel bearing the image of the 16-year-old sailor who bravely remained at his post on board HMS Chester, despite being mortally wounded.  

Jack died two days after the battle on 2 June 1916 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry that can be awarded to UK and Commonwealth Forces in the face of the enemy.

New railings have been fitted around the saluting dais and glass inserted between each stanchion.  The other panels display the Raleigh crest.   

The work was undertaken by craftsmen from Projectstainless. Rear Admiral Timothy Fraser, the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Capability and Force Design), was invited to formally open the dais during the most recent passing-out-parade.  

As the nation remembered the sacrifice of all those who took part in the Battle of Jutland, Captain Rob Bellfield and four trainees were invited to the unveiling of a Victoria Cross memorial paving stone dedicated to Jack at Jubilee Park in Leyton, about a mile from his first home.

Today, Cornwell’s portrait hangs in the chapel of our new entry training establishment, HMS Raleigh, and every sailor who joins the Royal Navy learns his story.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones

During the ceremony the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, reflected on the importance of Jack’s story.  

He said, “Today, Cornwell’s portrait hangs in the chapel of our new entry training establishment, HMS Raleigh, and every sailor who joins the Royal Navy learns his story. We will always remember those who fought and died at Jutland.  

"This nation still looks to the men and women of the Royal Navy to protect its interests at home and around the world. And although the world has moved on, the values of duty, courage and selflessness that Cornwell represents – our naval values – do not change from one generation to the next.”

Jack Cornwell came from London; a very ordinary boy from a very humble background. His dad was a former soldier who had various jobs in civilian life – nurse, milkman, tram driver, while his mother raised the family.  

He joined the Royal Navy in October 1915. After basic training in Devonport, the boy seaman headed to Rosyth to join cruiser HMS Chester at Easter 1916.

Six weeks later, the ship found herself in the middle of the greatest clash of warships the world had ever seen at Jutland. Jack was a sight setter on a 5.5in gun – protected from the enemy and the elements only by a shield. The cruiser was hit 18 times by German shells. Four landed near Cornwell’s gun, killing all but two of its crew and gravely wounding young Jack.

There was little Chester’s surgeons could do for him and doctors at Grimsby Hospital, where Jack was taken the following day were unable to save him. His mother Lily was sent for, but the boy seaman died on June 2 1916 before she reached his bedside. She later received a letter of condolence from Chester’s Commanding Officer Captain Robert Lawson hailing his bravery.

The young sailor was laid to rest in a common grave in Manor Park Cemetery, near Stratford in East London. When news of his bravery was revealed to the world – he was the only rating singled out in Admiral Beatty’s public dispatch on the battle – a clamour grew to honour him.  

Cornwell’s body was exhumed then reinterred with full military honours in the same cemetery on July 29 in what was the largest public event of the entire war.

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