Watch: The boy hero of Jutland

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Four Victoria Crosses were awarded for bravery in the Battle of Jutland, most fittingly to “boy hero’’ Jack Cornwell.

The 16-year-old Boy (1st Class) was a member of a gun crew on HMS Chester, which came under immense fire when four German ships attacked.

Jack Cornwell

Jack Cornwell

He was just eight months into his service at the time but remained at his post awaiting orders despite severe shrapnel injuries as all his gun crew were killed or fatally injured around him.

He died in hospital two days after the battle but his story entered British naval history, as a relative found out when he joined naval training at Raleigh last year.

Cornwell was great-great uncle of 23-year-old Alexander Saridis, who said: “I found out about him three weeks before I started my basic training, at the time I didn’t know anything about him, it was just a name and a medal.

“It wasn’t until I got to Raleigh and all the people around me in the Navy brought to light what he did and what Jack means to the Navy.

“The world and the Navy are so different now compared to then, so it’s hard for anyone to truly appreciate what it would have been like at Jutland and what Jack did at just 16. I mean, he had the same rank as I do at the moment.”

Cornwell was not initially treated as a hero but reports of his bravery later began to appear in the press.

He was buried in a communal grave but a campaign for a more fitting tribute led to his reburial with full naval honours in July 1916.

The funeral procession was made up of hundreds of people including sailors from HMS Chester, Cornwell’s school friends and local boy scouts.

In September 1916, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valour in the face of the enemy, joining Major Francis John William Harvey, Captain Barry Bingham and Captain Loftus Jones as those recognised for their bravery at Jutland.

Able Seaman Saridis will take part in the commemorations on Orkney next week.

He said: “I’ve done eight months’ training so far - the same as Jack did before his first sea draft which was Jutland - and my first mini sea draft is to go to the commemorations for the Battle of Jutland.

“It will be nice to be there and remember the bravery of Jack and thousands of others. He’s now one the moral figures of the Navy nowadays.”

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