Jack joined the Royal Navy at age 15 as a gun layer on the old armored cruiser HMS Chester, and his first battle, that of Jutland, was his last.
Born in Essex in 1900, young Jack had to drop out of school while still a boy to work for a baker to help his family get by. When World War I came, he tried repeatedly to join up and was finally accepted in the Navy, shipping out on an obsolete cruiser after a few months training.
When his ship came under a concentrated and combined crossfire from four German cruisers during the epic sea clash remembered in the West as the Battle of Jutland, 100 years ago this week, all but two of his gun crew were killed but he remained at his station, mortally wounded but still relaying firing orders through a headset and microphone at one of the ship’s 5.5-inch guns.
As other British ships came alongside HMS Chester after the battle, survivors of other unprotected gun mounts sat on deck, some limbless, smoking cigarettes and cheering the passing fleet. Many would not see the next dawn.
Jack lingered less for days until he died of his wounds.
He was awarded, posthumously, the Victoria’s Cross, the UKs highest military decoration, the youngest ever to receive the honor.
His great grandnephew, Alex Saridis, is keeping the family tradition alive and is currently an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy. He asks in the above video only that future generations remember Jack, and those that fell alongside him and share their story.
On Jack’s grave, now given protective status as mentioned in the BBC report below, the epitaph reads:
“It is not wealth or ancestry
but honourable conduct and a noble disposition
that maketh men great.”