John Travers Cornwell, (1900-1916) Boy Seaman First Class, won his Victoria Cross at the age of just 16 and remains the youngest recipient of Britain’s highest award for courage in battle. In the spring of 1916 he joined the crew of the cruiser HMS Chester. On 31 May 1916 the ship entered the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval action of World War I. Cornwell took up his position as gun-layer as his ship raced through a fog bank toward gunfire. As the ship emerged it found itself faced by four German cruisers. In the ensuing battle, the Chester as hit 17 times. Cornwell served his gun well, but a German shell wiped out Cornwell’s entire crew, and badly injured himself. Despite his wounds, Cornwell stayed at his gun until medical orderlies arrived and took him below. He later died of his wounds. King George V insisted that the boy be given the VC when he heard of the action.
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