Manor Park war hero Jack Cornwell honoured with Royal British Legion installation
- Credit: Royal British Legion
The sacrifice of a young war hero has been recognised with an installation to mark the launch of the Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal.
To mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, the red line - one of several across the country - aims to highlight how the war’s legacy is woven through the fabric of the nation.
John “Jack” Cornwell, who grew up in Manor Park, was just 16 when his ship, HMS Chester, was involved in the Battle of Jutland.
The ship sustained serious damage and although Jack was injured early in the battle, he remained at his post until the end.
A report from the Commanding Officer of HMS Chester said: “Boy (1st Class) John Travers Cornwell of the ‘Chester’, was mortally wounded early in the action.
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“He nevertheless remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders till the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded all round him.”
He was taken to hospital in Grimsby where he died from his wounds.
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Jack was initially buried in a communal grave at Manor Park Cemetery but when news of his heroism became public, the decision was made to rebury him with full naval honours.
He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery.
In the subsequent century, he has been honoured in many ways, with a street and a community centre in Manor Park both named after him.
East Ham also boasts the Cornwell VC Cadets Centre, while in Leyton, where Jack went to school, a park was renamed in his honour.
It is in the Jack Cornwell Park that the Royal British Legion’s installation was unveiled.
All the red lines - which include other locations in London such as Neasden and Sidcup as well as cities like Edinburgh and Birmingham - are linked by one central statue outside the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.
A thread bearing a message points in the direction of each, which corresponds to the message on each smaller installation.
Jack’s, which is a letter from Captain Robert Lawson of HMS Chester to the teenager’s mother, reads: “He stayed there, standing and waiting, under heavy fire, with just his own brave heart and God’s help to support him.”