Events across London have been held ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, one of the largest naval actions in history and the most decisive sea battle of the First World War.
His Royal Highness The Duke of York attended a Jutland 100 reception on board HMS Duncan in West India Dock while at the same time, a paving stone was unveiled in Leyton in honour of Victoria Cross holder John ‘Jack’ Cornwell, who died aged just 16 following the battle on May 311916.
The Duke of York’s grandfather, Prince Albert, Duke of York, later HM King George VI, served on HMS Collingwood at the Battle of Jutland. During his visit to HMS Duncan, one of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyers, Prince Andrew inspected a guard of honour before meeting members of the ship’s company, representatives of the Sea Cadet Corps and Jutland descendants.
These included Nick Jellicoe, grandson of Britain’s Jutland naval commander Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, and Able Seaman Thomas Cope, whose great-grandfather served on board HMS Monarch during the battle. The Duke saw artefacts from Admiral Jellicoe’s Flagship, HMS Iron Duke, including a Union Flag and the Watch Bell and Ensign. During the event, Prince Andrew also submitted a personal message of Remembrance into the Jutland Capsule, a time capsule of messages created by the Royal British Legion to those who lost their lives in the battle.
Able Seaman Thomas Cope said:
It’s great to honour those who fought in the First World War and it’s been really interesting to find out more about my great-grandfather. I am proud to be able to continue the tradition of naval service in the Cope family.
Although my great-grandfather died 30 years before I was born, we have the same name and I was about the same age as he was when on HMS Monarch, so I feel a certain connection. The Royal Navy did a lot in the Battle of Jutland and it does a lot today, so it’s good that the anniversary events highlight this.
In East London, the First Sea Lord and around 100 sailors attended the VC Paving Stone unveiling for Victoria Cross recipient Jack Cornwell in Jubilee Park, Leyton. They were joined by civic representatives, Cornwell family descendants – including Able Seaman Alex Saridis who recently completed basic training in the Royal Navy – and members of the public to honour the memory of ‘Boy Cornwell’, one of the most famous sailors of the First World War, whose tale of heroism captured the public’s imagination.
At the unveiling, the newly-appointed First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, reflected on the importance of Jack Cornwell’s story, saying:
Today, Cornwell’s portrait hangs in the chapel of our new entry training establishment, HMS Raleigh, and every sailor who joins the Royal Navy learns his story. We will always remember those who fought and died at Jutland.
This nation still looks to the men and women of the Royal Navy to protect its interests at home and around the world. And although the world has moved on, the values of duty, courage and selflessness that Cornwell represents – our naval values – do not change from one generation to the next.
Able Seaman Alex Saridis added:
As a serving member of the Royal Navy, I feel Jack has set the bar high for the expectations I hold for myself during my own career. I can’t begin to imagine what it would have felt like for Jack being in that battle, and I hope it’s something I never have to experience myself. But it makes me glad to see his sacrifice and courage is remembered all these years on.
On Tuesday May 31 a number of events will take place across the UK to mark the centenary of the battle, and pay tribute to 6,094 British and 2,551 German sailors who lost their lives.
The main focus will be on the Orkney Islands, with services in Kirkwall Cathedral and Lyness Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery. In the spirit of reconciliation, an event will also take place simultaneously at sea over Jutland Bank – the site of the battle – and will feature warships from both the Royal Navy and German Navy scattering flowers of Remembrance.