The Scouting Pages - The Cornwell Award

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Cornwell Award

This is an special award which is reserved exclusively for Scouts under the age of 20 and is given in respect to their courage and endurance under extreme conditions.

The badge (it is not a medal) is made of bronze and features the letter "C" surrounding the Scout Fleur de Lis

Jack Cornwell

The Cornwell Award is named after John Travers Cornwell who at the age of 15 gained the Victoria Cross at the battle of Jutland off the coast of Denmark where he stayed at his post of gunner on the HMS Chester.

"Jack" as he was known Cornwell was born in East London in January 1900, he was the 3rd child of Eli and Alice Cornwell. When he was old enough he joined the Scouts in the in the St Mary's Mission, Little Ilford Troop, he left school in 1914 and became a delivery boy.

In 1915 he gave up is job and joined the navy with out his fathers permission, giving his headmaster and employer as references. He carried out his basic training at Keynham Naval Barracks at Plymouth and received further training as a Sight Setter or Gun Layer and became Boy Seaman First Class J/42563. On the Easter Monday of 1916, Cornwell left for Rosyth, Scotland to join his assignment in the navy. He was assigned to HMS Chester.

On May 31 1916 HMS Chester was in the front line in the Battle of Jutland and came under attack from 4 German Cruisers. Cornwell has serverly injured but this was not known until the ship was relived and first aid parties boarded the Chester and found him still at his post. "Jack was taken to Grimsby Hospital where he died on June 2 1916 at the age of 16. He was buried nearby Scartho Road Cemetery with is family attending.

Three months later, captain Robert Lawson of HMS Chester described the events to the British Admiralty. Though at first reluctant, the Admiralty eventually decided to recommend Cornwell for a posthumous Victoria Cross and King George V endorsed it. The recommendation for citation from his Commanding Officer, Admiral Beatty, reads: "the instance of devotion to duty by Boy (1st Class) John Travers Cornwell who was mortally wounded early in the action, but 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 around him. He was under 16 years old. I regret that he has since died, but I recommend his case for special recognition in justice to his memory and as an acknowledgement of the high example set by him."

Jack Cornwell's Grave

Cornwell's body was exhumed July 29, 1916 and taken to London to be reburied in Manor Park Cemetery with full naval honours. The funeral route was lined by Boy Scouts and attended by tremendous crowds. Jack's family walked in the procession with 80 members of Jack's old school, Boy Scouts, Sea Cadets, and six Boy Sailors from Jack's ship, HMS Chester.

Victoria Cross

On November 16, 1916, Cornwell's mother received the Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace.

Frank Salisbury pianting of "Jack"

Court painter Frank Salisbury made a portrait of Cornwell, using his brother Ernest as a model, depicting him standing in his post. The original of this painting duly passed from the Admiralty in London to Seaman training establishments: HMS IMPREGNABLE in Devonport, HMS St VINCENT in Gosport and finally to HMS RALEIGH in Cornwall where it now hangs - newly cleaned and with its magnificent frame refurbished - in the chapel and where it continues to inspire youngsters setting out on their careers in the Royal Navy.

Letter received by Jack Cornwell's Mother from the Captain of HMS Chester

"I know you would wish to hear of the splendid fortitude and courage shown by your boy during the action of May 31. His devotion to duty was an example for all of us. The wounds which resulted in his death within a short time were received in the first few minutes of the action. He remained steady at his most exposed post at the gun, waiting for orders.

His gun would not bear on the enemy, all but two of the ten of the crew were killed or wounded, and he was the only one who was in such an exposed position. But he felt he might be needed - as 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. I cannot express to you my admiration of the son you have lost from this world. No other comfort would I attempt to give to the mother of so brave a lad, but to assure her of what he was and what he did, and what an example he gave. I hope to place in the boys' mess a plate with his name on and the date, and the words " Faithful unto death." I hope some day you may be able to come and see it there."

Admiral Lord Beresford writes to the readers of Boy's Own Paper:-

Cornwall has set an example of devotion to duty which will be an inspiration to British boys for all time. It will not fall to the lot of every boy to prove so devotedly his obedience, discipline, and self-sacrifice; but every boy can endeavour to live up to his example by practising discipline and being obedient in small things. In this way character is formed, and we are able - when a crisis arises and there are big things to be done - to do them.

Depiction on Cigarette Cards

Jack Cornwell Cigarette CardJack Cornwell Cigarette Card Reverse

Jack Cornwell was also imortalised as Card 5 of a serries of 25 cigarette cards that were produced by Godfrey Phillips Ltd of London that depicted Famous Boys and in a serries of Famous Minors, where his card was number 9 of 50

Famous MinorsFamous Minors Reverse

Gallahers John CornwellGallahers John Cornwell Reverse

He was also in a serries by another Cigarette Manufacture, Gallaher Ltd depicting VC holders his card was 7 of 25

Further Reading

Scout Association Fact Sheet - Scout Awards and The Cornwell Badge
Wikepedia - The Free Encyclopaedia
Scouting Milestones
UK Comics - The Boys Own Paper
Imperial War Museum
Cigarette Card Images from New York Public Library Digital Gallery
Information on the painting done by Frank Salisbury taken from Maritime Prints Website