'Jack' Cornwell commemorative stone to be unveiled

23 May 2016 in Events and Mayor
The heroism of John ‘Travers’ Cornwell VC (nicknamed Jack Cornwell) – one of the youngest ever people to be awarded the Victoria Cross – will be marked with the unveiling of a commemorative stone in East Ham on Sunday 5 June.
Jack, from Manor Park, was aged just 16 when he bravely stayed at his post on HMS Chester during the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 despite being severely wounded. He died in Grimsby Hospital on June 2, 1916.

Newham Council is honouring the five people from the borough who received the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry a member of the British and Commonwealth military services can achieve, during World War I. A special commemorative stone is being laid at the Central Park Cenotaph for each of them around the 100th anniversary of the act of bravery they received their award for.

The ceremony on 5 June will mark Jack’s brave actions with the stone being unveiled by the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, and 14-year-old Cadet Kacey-Leigh Jasper, from the Newham Cornwell VC Sea Cadets.

At the outbreak of the war in 1914 Jack tried to join the Royal Navy but was turned down because at 14 he was too young. A year later in October 1915 he re-applied to join the Navy, without his father’s permission, and was accepted.

On 31 May, 1916 Boy, 1st Class, Cornwell was aboard HMS Chester during the Battle of Jutland. His ship came under fire from four German cruisers. The gun mounting where he was the sight setter was hit and the entire gun’s crew, except for him, were killed.

Jack was severely wounded by shards of metal embedded in his chest, but managed to stand up and remain at his post until the heavily damaged HMS Chester retired to the port of Immingham in Lincolnshire.

The legacy of Jack Cornwell remains in Newham today with the Jack Cornwell Centre in Jack Cornwell Street, Manor Park; Cornwell Crescent in Manor Park Cemetery; and the Cornwell VC Cadet Centre, where the Newham Sea Cadets are based, in Vicarage Lane, East Ham.

The annual parade by the Sea Cadets and The Royal British Legion in his honour will precede the unveiling of the stone. Before the ceremony they will march to the Cenotaph from the Cornwell VC Cadet Centre. Afterwards the parade will head to the nearby Newham Town Hall. A special exhibition, entitled Newham in the Great War, will be on display at the Town Hall between noon and 1pm.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Van Den Berg RNR will provide the Victoria Cross citation at the ceremony and chaplain to the Royal British Legion The Reverend Fred Ashford-Okai will bless the stone. Members of the public are invited to the ceremony which will also be attended by the Young Mayor of Newham, Alex Jarrett.

The Queen’s Representative, Deputy Lieutenant for Newham, John Barber Esq DL, will carry out a reading and Cadet Jasper will provide a Jutland epitaph. A number of wreathes will also be placed at the Cenotaph.

Sir Robin said: “Of all the heroic actions we are marking with these commemorative stones Jack Cornwell’s story is one of the most amazing.

“Not only did he try and sign up for the Royal Navy when he was underage, when he did go to sea he did not hide in the face of enemy fire despite being severely wounded. It is a totally inspiring story.

“We are proud of the brave and selfless acts of Jack Cornwell and the other Newham residents who received VCs for their actions in World War I. It is only right and proper that we mark them with a permanent reminder of their courage.”

It is the third commemorative stone to be laid at the Central Park Cenotaph. Stones honouring Midshipman George L. Drewry from Forest Gate and Second Lieutenant Edgar K. Myles from East Ham were unveiled in April 2015 and April 2016 respectively.