David Lewis Paget
Jutland - Poem by David Lewis Paget
Jack Cornwell was a Boy, First Class
On the Chester’s forward gun,
There to relay the settings with
A pair of headphones on,
He’d turned sixteen just months before
Was trained for his chosen task,
And hoped for a life of adventure as
He sailed, before the mast.
The Chester sailed to join the Fleet
That had left from Scapa Flow,
The Grand Fleet with its battleships
Sailed under Jellicoe,
They’d intercepted the German codes
And knew that they’d put to sea,
Hoping to split the British Fleet
And gain a victory.
The Chester turned to meet the flash
Of gunfire, far away,
The light was poor before the dawn
And the mist was thick that day,
Three funnels of a German ship
Came gliding through the mist,
And the Chester turned to starboard
Ready to show the British fist.
But the German ship was not alone
And the shells began to rain,
From the following battle cruisers
Shattering decks, in blood and pain,
Jack Cornwell stood at his post while all
His gun crew lay there dead,
Ready to take his orders, though
The Chester turned, and fled.
The medics found him with shrapnel wounds
Steel splinters in his chest,
He wouldn’t desert his post, he was
As brave as all the rest,
The Chester sailed for Immingham
Disembarked the wounded crew,
Put Jack in Grimsby Hospital,
There was nothing they could do.
He died just two days afterwards
Before his mother came,
She’d hurried on up from London
Where she’d caught the fastest train,
They buried Jack in a communal grave
So many men had died,
Fighting for King and country
Steeped in duty, worth and pride.
His name was honoured from lip to lip
How he’d stood beside his gun,
Determined to fight the German ships
‘Til the Chester turned to run,
Such courage born of England
Where it was tempered at the forge,
Was so inspiring in one so young
Said the Navy, to King George.
‘For shame, ’ then cried the ‘Daily Sketch’
When they heard of the communal grave,
‘Is this how we treat our heroes,
Jack deserves the nation’s praise! ’
The coffin was shortly disinterred
And draped with the Union Jack,
Drawn on an open gun carriage
With the Navy at its back.
His name went down in the history books
As the boy who stuck to his post,
In the midst of dead and dying men
As they made their way to the coast,
King George conferred the highest award
That there was, for bravery,
Awarded him the Victoria Cross,
Jack Cornwell, Boy, V.C.
17 August 2013
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