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Walsall Warrior: John Henry Carless

Carless, John Henry

John Henry Carless, 1896 - 1917. Born in Walsall, killed in action on the H.M.S Caledon, age 21.

Today is remembrance day. It’s also the birthday of John Henry Carless, Ordinary Seaman of the H.M.S. Caledon, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the First World War on November 17th 1917, in the second battle at Heligoland Bight, Germany. The London Gazette wrote on May 17th, 1918 that he was awarded the cross for:

most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Although mortally wounded in the abdomen, he still went on serving the gun at which he was acting as rammer, lifting a projectile and helping to clear away the other casualties. He collapsed once, but got up, tried again, and cheered on the new gun’s crew. He then fell and died. He not only set a very inspiring and memorable example, but he also, whilst mortally wounded, continued to do effective work against the King’s enemies.

Carless VC

Carless' Victoria Cross

Ordinary Seamen only had one or two years experience at sea, so Carless would have been a relative newcomer to the Navy. This was, however, not the first time Carless had shown exceptional courage; he served for a time on a destroyer during which time he rescued passengers from an ailing hospital ship and saved the life of a stoker who had become enveloped in flames by a fire in the boiler-house.

Today, a bronze (the same material the Victoria Cross is formed from) bust of John Henry Carless watches over Walsall’s Museum and Library on Lichfield Street, which houses a display in his honour in the permanent Changing Face of Walsall exhibit, including his Victoria Cross. Our other museums also hold various medals and awards from both the World Wars and other conflicts; if you’re interested in seeing some of these then you can contact your local museum.

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