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London Grave of Jack Cornwell VC receives Protected Status

This week everyone at Deceased Online has been delighted to learn that First World War boy hero, Jack Cornwell's grave in London's Manor Park Cemetery has been awarded Grade II listed status.

John Travers Cornwell, Boy 1st class (1900–1916) by Ambrose McEvoy
2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the devastating Great War naval conflict of 31st May-1st June 1916, that led to loss of  6,094 British and 2,551 German personnel.

One of those lost souls was John "Jack" Travers Cornwell (1900-1916), who had enlisted as a young teenager in 1915. Jack Cornwell was just 16 years old when he was fatally wounded during the Battle of Jutland aboard the HMS Chester. He died two days later at hospital in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. 

On the day of the 31st May, HMS Chester came under heavy fire from four German ships. Despite being hit by shrapnel, Cornwell remained at his post awaiting orders. As a result of his bravery, Cornwell became celebrated across Great Britain as the "boy hero"of Jutland. However, it was only three months later that he was recommended for the Victoria Cross. King George V presented the award to Jack's mother, Alice Cornwell on 16th November 1916.

The burial entry for John Travers Cornwell (copyright Deceased Online)
Cornwell had been born in Leyton, east London and his body was taken home to be buried in nearby Manor Park. At first, Cornwell was buried in communal grave number 323 as his family was too poor to afford a private burial. After a public outcry at this treatment of the boy war hero, Cornwell's body was exhumed on the 29th July 1916 and he was reburied with full military honours. The altered burial entry (above) can be seen in full as part of the Manor Park Cemetery collection in the Deceased Online database.

Monument to Jack Cornwell VC in Manor Park Cemetery
A large monument was erected above this new grave. Appropriately sculpted with a large naval anchor, the memorial also provides details on the tragedy that went on to envelop Cormwell's surviving family. Just 6 months after Jack Cornwell's death, his father, Eli, passed away from bronchitis while serving at home with the Royal Defence Corps. Arthur Frederick Cornwell, Jack's stepbrother, was killed in action in August 1918. Alice Cornwell, the mother who had rushed to the bedside of her dying son in 1916, only to arrive too late, seems to have been unable to cope with the losses she endured and died in October 1919. Even more sadly, Alice died in poverty after the memorial fund set up in her son's name refused to contribute to her living expenses.


Cornwell's epitaph on the monument reads:

It is not wealth or ancestry
but honourable conduct and a noble 
disposition that maketh men great.
Ovid.

A hundred years on, in 2016, a ceremony marking the listed status of Cornwell's grave will take place at Manor Park Cemetery. Cornwell's family, including his great,great nephew, serving able seaman Alexander Saridis, will be in attendance.

Did any of your family members serve in the Battle of Jutland? Did they survive or have you found their burial records in the Deceased Online database? Either way, please do get in touch in the Comments Box below or via or Facebook and Twitter portals. We love to hear from you!


Comments

  1. Great Blog. Don't think I have any family members who served in the Battle of Jutland.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Grant.

    If you have any family who served in the First World War in either the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines, it would be worth looking at their service records in closer detail.

    Emma.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi there, I was brought up told that I was related to Jack Cornwell (VC). My grandfather was William (Bill) Cornwell who served in WW2 as a nurse in India if I recall correctly.

    ReplyDelete

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