Yesterday I attended the annual Parade and Church service in honour of John Travers Cornwell VC in Manor Park, E12. The ceremony also commenarated the 90th anniversary of the The Royal British Legion.
John (or Jack) was a local lad who joined the Navy without the permission of his parents and died aged 16 of wounds suffered in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the battle. The youngest person in the Navy to receive such a reward.
There was about 100 people taking part in the Parade. Some of the very old and frail veterans were carried by a minibus at the front of the march. They were followed by the Royal British Legion Band, British Legion banners, Legion members and supporters. Then three teams from Newham Royal Navy and Air Force Cadets. The senior officer was the Newham Deputy Lieutenant, Colonel Mike Dudding and the Council was represented by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Andrew Baikie.
We marched to what I thought to be a very moving service at St Michael's and All Angels Church in Romford Road. During which we sang some beautiful hymns supported by an excellent Church Choir. The Royal British Legion were (I think accurately) in the service compared to the biblical "Good Samaritans". We were all aware of British troops currently fighting in Afghanistan and Libya. We then marched back to a reception at the British Legion headquarters in Church Street.
I think I was most impressed by the Newham Navy and Air Force Cadets present. Nearly all of them were even younger than Jack Cornwell when he had joined up. It is nowadays almost completely unimaginable to think that 16 year old were sent in such harms way on active service.
They had given up their Sunday to show respect not only to the good works of the Legion but also to a fellow Newham teenager from a very different but still relatively recent age who had paid the price of those in peril on the sea.