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HMS Chester was part of the British Grand Fleet under the command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and on the 30 May 1916 the Grand Fleet left its base at Scarpa Flow in the Orkney Islands off Scotland.  The Battle Cruiser Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty was already further south in the North Sea.  In the early afternoon of 31 May the German Fleet was sighted by Beatty and his fleet and shortly after the Battle of Jutland began.  Jellicoe sent a Battlecruiser Squadron, including HMS Chester, ahead of the main part of his fleet to seek out and support Beatty’s fleet.  Jack would have been stationed by his gun wearing headphones so he could hear orders from the Gunnery Officer.  On receiving instructions he would then have to set the gun sights enabling it to be accurately fired.  About two hours into the Battle HMS Chester came into the action and was heavily pounded by four German ships receiving 17 direct hits in the first few minutes.  Jack’s gun was near the front of the ship and was hit early on.  With many of his shipmates dead or badly injured Jack was left as one of the few men still standing.  He had received a serious wound but his behaviour over the next few hours showed his devotion to duty and courage in the face of adversity.  His Captain later wrote to Jack’s mother, Lily Cornwell, describing what happened next,


“He remained steady at his most exposed post at the gun, waiting for orders…. …But he felt he might be needed, and, indeed, he might have been; so he stayed there standing and waiting, under heavy fire, with just his own brave heart and God’s help to support him.”


Following the Battle Jack was transferred to the Grimsby and District Hospital but it was apparent that nothing could be done to save him and he died on 2 June 1916.  His mother was sent for but sadly couldn’t reach Grimsby in time to say to goodbye to her son.  He death certificate reads


“Intestinal perforations due to wounds received in action.  Injuries received in the naval battle between the British and German navies in the North Sea.”

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