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Sir Ben learns about boy war hero at naval base

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: February 10, 2011

<P> Captain Steve Murdoch (right) presents Sir Ben Kingsley  with a copy of the portrait of Boy Seaman Jack Cornwell VC at HMS Raleigh</P>

Captain Steve Murdoch (right) presents Sir Ben Kingsley with a copy of the portrait of Boy Seaman Jack Cornwell VC at HMS Raleigh

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Oscar-winner actor Sir Ben Kingsley has visited the Westcountry in search for a location for a proposed film project.

The Gandhi actor was at to HMS Raleigh to learn more about the First World War heroics of boy seaman John Travers Cornwell VC.

Sir Ben visited to learn more about the portrait of John Travers Cornwell, which hangs in St Paul's Church at the Royal Navy training base at Torpoint, South East Cornwall.

The portrait depicts Jack, as John was known, standing next to the gun on board HMS Chester during the Battle of Jutland. The gun received four direct hits and although mortally wounded 16-year-old Jack remained at his post until HMS Chester retired from the battle.

The sole survivor of the gun crews, Jack died from his wounds at Grimsby General Hospital two days after the June 2 1918 battle. As a result of his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest and most prestigious award for bravery.

During his visit to HMS Raleigh, Sir Ben was told how Jack's story is used to inspire today's Royal Navy's recruits.

Captain Steve Murdoch, the Commanding Officer of HMS Raleigh, said: "We were delighted and honoured to have the opportunity to show Sir Ben the painting of Jack Cornwell, which is a very valuable training resource. One of the aims of basic training is to instil into the recruits the Royal Navy's core values of commitment, courage, discipline, respect, integrity and loyalty.

"Jack was just 16 years old when he took part in the battle and only four weeks out of training. Being close in age and experience to many of today's recruits he is someone they can identify with and is a fine example of someone who displayed all of these values and more."

During his visit, Sir Ben also saw HMS Raleigh's new heritage and communication centre and was among the guests invited to witness the passing out parade.

Sir Ben said: "I was particularly struck by how welcome I, as a mere civilian, was made by Captain Steve Murdoch and his colleagues. I sensed a genuine atmosphere of commitment, comradeship and trust. The passing out parade and the emotional scenes of pride and achievement will stay with me for a long time.

"The pride and dignity of the recruits and their friends and relatives; an indelible image.

"All this heightened my awareness of Jack Cornwell's extraordinary courage and sense of duty."

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