The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, plans to restore a charcoal drawing of Jack Cornwell for its Jutland Centenary exhibition in 2016 (Photo: Centenary News)

Navy museum's £25,000 appeal to restore sketch of teenage Victoria Cross sailor

Posted on on 25 November 2015
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A charcoal sketch of a 16-year-old British sailor posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War is to be restored by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, with funds raised through a crowdfunding campaign. 

Jack Cornwell, who won the Victoria Cross during the Battle of Jutland in 1916, remained at his post on the deck of HMS Chester despite being mortally wounded. The youngest winner of Britain's highest gallantry award in WW1, he died shortly after the battle. 

Now the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) has launched a campaign to raise the £25,000 needed to restore a large charcoal sketch of 'Boy' Cornwell. It will be displayed at the museum's forthcoming Jutland Centenary exhibition.

The sketch, 3m x 1.5m, was a preparatory study used by noted portrait artist Frank O. Salisbury for his famous painting of Jack at his post, which he completed in 1917. The painting was presented to the Admiralty and now hangs at HMS Raleigh, the Royal Navy's training establishment near Plymouth.


Nick Hewitt, Head of Heritage Development at NMRN, says: "What we want to do is to have this sketch restored so we can put it as a centrepiece in our Battle of Jutland centenary commemorations in 2016. There’s a lot of work to be done and we really need the funds to support it."

The museum is developing a major exhibition about the Battle of Jutland, scheduled to open at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on May 24th 2016. The exhibition will be entitled: '36 Hours: Jutland 1916, the Battle that Won the War.'

Jack Cornwell’s heroism caught the public imagination and following an initial common burial, his remains were exhumed and re-interred with full naval honours at Manor Park Cemetery in east London.

Following the battle, schoolchildren from around the UK each donated a penny of their pocket money to sponsor a memorial stone and as a contribution to the Jack Cornwell Memorial Fund. 

The fund was established to finance a ward for disabled sailors in the Star and Garter Home at Richmond in southwest London; £18,000 was raised, equivalent to over £1.6m today. 

Jack’s valour in World War One also inspired the Scouting Association to create the Jack Cornwell Badge, the highest honour a scout can receive.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy's video about the project can be watched here.

NMRN's crowdfunding campaign page is here.

Source: National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: Jim Hamilton, Centenary News