QUOTE (Signals @ Fri, 11 Jul 2003 23:37:17 +0000)
To date when I have tried to look objectively at Jack Cornwell’s VC I can see no act of heroism as such, but a young hero all the same.
To return to the subject of J T Cornwell, I have a booklet produced by a T C MacCormack of Northampton.
He sold copies for 1/- each in aid of the Cornwell family who suffered badly during the war. It gives many interesting facts about the family.
J T Cornwell was born at Leyton in Essex, on January 8th 1900. His father, an old soldier who had served in the Boer War and Egypt, died 5 months after his son's death aged 64 while he was "serving his country". John's elder brother (18) was called up 2 months after this double bereavement and joined the Navy. Mrs Cornwell was left to fend for herself and her two remaining children and had to work in a coffee shop 12 hours a day 7 days a week to make ends meet.
The book gives this description of the action that led to the award of the VC.
"Early in the engagement Jack was wounded. At the time all his gun mates (eleven) were either killed or wounded, and lay on the deck around their battered gun.
But Jack, though exposed to danger all the time, stuck to his gun until the battle was over. His lieutenant who could see that the lad was wounded, urged him to give in and go below, but Jack quietly replied: Sir the Chester's out to win".
When the battle was over his Petty Officer came up, and slapping his back said "well done, my lad! you've stuck it well, and you're lucky too not to get wounded". "I am wounded sir" said Jack.
Scarcely had he uttered the words when he collapsed on the deck. On being taken below the awful nature of the wound was discovered"
"His wound was considered so dangerous that his parents were teleghraphed for. His father was away serving his country, having rejoined the Army aged 62, while his mother, owing to lack of the means to pay her fare, could not start out at once, and arrived at Grimsby several hours too late to see her brave boy alive".
Imagine the distress of his mother knowing he was dying and not having the means to go to him.
His father was Pte Eli Cornwell, 15823, 57th Protection Coy, Royal Defence Corps. He is buried with John in the Manor Park Cemetary, Essex.
John's eldest brother Arthur was killed in 1918 while serving with the 13th Londons and their mother died in 1919.
Quite a sacrifice.