Campaign to restore portrait of Battle of Jutland boy

The sketch of Jack Cornwell is in a deteriorating condition. Picture: PA
The sketch of Jack Cornwell is in a deteriorating condition. Picture: PA
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A CROWDFUNDING campaign is being launched to pay for renovations to a large charcoal sketch of a First World War boy hero who remained at his post despite suffering fatal wounds.

As the centenary approaches of the death of 16-year-old Jack Cornwell at the Battle of Jutland, the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) in Portsmouth, Hampshire, is hoping to raise £25,000 to have the sketch restored.

It wants it to be the centrepiece of a new exhibition commemorating the battle.

The fate of the Essex teenager, who served on HMS Chester and was one of the youngest people to join the Royal Navy, captured the hearts of the nation after he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

After originally being given a common burial, his body was exhumed and he was publicly reburied at Manor Park Cemetery, London, with full naval honours.

The sketch was made by artist Frank O Salisbury ahead of completing a painting of Jack.

Nick Hewitt, NMRN head of heritage development, said: “In 1916 Jack’s actions captured the hearts of the nation and now, 100 years on, we want to do the same.

“Before Frank O Salisbury created the painting of Jack, he prepared a charcoal sketch, which is nearly 3m x 1.5m wide.

“This is the only piece of preliminary work and frankly it was not meant to last this long.

“When we acquired it, it was in a poor condition. It was very fragile.

“What we want to do is 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 Battle of Jutland, which involved 250 ships, took place off the coast of Denmark on 21 May 1916, and led to 14 British and 11 German ships being sunk, with great loss of life.

The NMRN crowdfunding campaign follows in the footsteps of a similar campaign after Jack’s death when schoolchildren around the country donated a penny from their pocket money to sponsor his memorial stone.

The fund was established to finance a ward for disabled sailors in the Royal Star and Garter Home at Richmond, Surrey.

An NMRN spokeswoman said: “It was possibly one of the first crowdfunding campaigns. An impressive amount of £18,000 was raised which, based on an historic inflation calculator, is equivalent to £1,653,224.45 today.

“Jack’s valiant efforts in the First World War also inspired the Scouting Association to create the Jack Cornwell Badge, the highest honour a Scout can receive.”

One recipient of the badge, Victoria Edwards, 16, from Havant, Hampshire, says the award has been an inspiration for her. She overcame a brain haemorrhage and continued to attend Havant Scouts.

She said: “It’s not every day you have someone like Jack fighting on, despite being wounded. You don’t get that a lot now so these people need to be cherished and celebrated.”

For details of the crowdfunding campaign visit http://igg.me/at/jackcornwell and https://youtu.be/9JkteMC09_o.