Rob Jerrard's ROYAL NAVY SITE, Royal Navy & Maritime Book Reviews and Ships and (Crews) that Deserve to be Remembered.

Title: JT Cornwell VC and the Scouts' 'Badge of Courage'

Edition: First

Author: Colin Walker

ISBN: 1905546076

Publishers: Write Books CPR Ltd

Price £7.99

Publication Date: 2006


This is a small, interesting book which measures 8"x 5.5" concerning JT Cornwell VC, which is as it states, ‘An illustrated account of JT Cornwell VC documenting his roots in East London, Scouting history and his Naval training prior to the Battle of Jutland where he was fatally wounded.  The book is in A5 format and has an ISBN number.  It contains 75 pages of text and illustrations excluding preface, acknowledgements, sources printed and internet.  The book has been written from a Scout History perspective with full details of the Cornwell Award inspired by Jack Cornwell.

‘Jack’ as he was known, was born at Clyde Cottage, Clyde Place, Leyton, Essex.  The house and street no longer exists, however a blue plaque is now in place as near as possible to its location. 

My review copy is a first edition and I have been issued with an errata sheet, which corrects a number of errors.  However it states in one correction, "Jack did not serve on HMS Lancaster despite the photographs of him wearing a cap with the Lancaster tally band".  One does not serve on a ship but in it and to my knowledge we always called them cap tallies.

The author does point out that the book has very small print runs of a hundred at a time, which means that errors are being corrected each time.  The problem with this is that the book is priced at £7.99 plus £1 p&p which seems rather a lot for a book that is being constantly amended.

The book tells us the truth of what happened regarding his burial.  Initially he was buried in a common grave – a mistake which was rectified.  Fortunately Jack’s body was the last to be interred in this common grave, so it could be exhumed without disturbance to the other coffins. 

His second and hero’s burial was at Manor Park on Saturday 29th July 1916.  It is marked by a marble memorial which reads:-

In Memoriam First Class Boy JOHN TRAVERS CORNWELL, VC. Born 8th January 1900 Died of wounds received at The Battle of Jutland 2nd June 1916

This Stone was erected by Scholars and ex-Scholars of Schools in East Ham

'It is not wealth or ancestry but honourable conduct and a noble disposition that makes men great'. D.M.

Jack’s funeral was most impressive. The cortege was followed by state and civic dignitaries, plus six Boy Seamen carrying wreaths from the ship's company of HMS Chester.  His mother and father were later buried with him. 

Albeit a small book, it does cover all aspects of Jack’s life and subsequent events eg the Battle of Jutland, the first grave and a hero’s burial, the Victoria Cross, the Scouts Bronze Cross, the Cornwell Award, Cornwell Remembered, Jack’s schools, commemorative cigarette cards, postcards, stamps, medals and buildings which all show the interest he aroused. 

Also covered is the award of a VC to Leading Seaman Jack F Mantle P/JX139070.  His official number tells us a story.  P/J means he joined as a Junior Rating at Portsmouth  - in fact my official number was P/J.

It will be interesting to know if he trained at HMS St Vincent because it seems that Gosport has a Mantle Close named for him.  It is very near to Cornwell Close.  (Apparently Mantle Close is one of the least expensive roads in Gosport.  Since a VC medal is made of humble metal it seems appropriate. 

All in all a well-presented little book, which should appeal to all Scouts and ex-Naval personnel of my generation.  It should also be read by others, lest we forget the sacrifice made by so many Boy Seamen of whom Jack Cornwell was a representative.  I am sure he would have liked to be remembered that way and not as a lone hero.

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Rob Jerrard