THE VICTORIA CROSS AWARDED TO ORDINARY SEAMAN JOHN HENRY CARLESS, ROYAL NAVY, WAS BEQUEATHED TO THE PEOPLE OF WALSALL BY A MEMBER OF HIS FAMILY.
20 October 2007


( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Ordinary Seaman John Carless
Royal Navy ( HMS 'Caledon' )

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star ( location not known )
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 ) ( location not known )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 ) ( location not known )


A month after the award of the Victoria Cross to John Carless was published in the 'London Gazette' his parents travelled to London to receive his VC from the hands of King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 22nd June 1918.

John Carless's Victoria Cross passed in turn, from his parents to his brother William, and then to his nephew John Henry Carless, who was named after him. On his death in 1986, the Cross was bequeathed to Walsall Council on behalf of the town.


For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 17 May 1918 ], Battle of Heligoland, North Sea, 17 November 1917, Ordinary Seaman John Henry Carless, Royal Navy.

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 gunís 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 Kingís enemies.


John Carless's service in the Royal Navy had already been marked by a high degree of gallantry. When a hospital ship sank, he was among a party of volunteers who assisted in the hazardous rescue of hundreds of passengers. On another occasion he braved a serious boiler-room fire to save an injured stoker trapped by the flames.

The day following the battle, while still at sea, the British bured their dead. There were nineteen in all, five from the 'Caledon' including John Henry Carless. His name is engraved on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

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Iain Stewart, 20 October 2007