13 November 2008

John Raynes enlisted into the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery in 1904 and served with the regiment for a total of eight years. After leaving the Army in 1912 Raynes joined the Leeds City Police until the outbreak of war in August 1914 when he was recalled for military service as a reservist.

Following the end of the First World War John Raynes returned to civilian life and rejoined the Leeds City Police based at the old Milgarth police station and rose to the rank of sergeant. However, he was still suffering from the effects of gas poisoning contracted during his VC action and struggled to continue his duties as a policeman, eventually being forced to take a desk job. John Raynes' health deteriorated rapidly over the next few years resulting in his death at the comparitively young age of 43 years on 12th November 1929.

It was while researching into the First World War that West Yorkshire Policeman Pc Anthony Child unearthed the heroic actions of Battery Sergeant Major John Raynes VC and discovered his grave had fallen into disrepair in Harehills Cemetery, Leeds. Following a complete refurbishment of the impressive headstone over Raynes' burial plot, a ceremony of rededication was held on the 13th November 2008, officiated by the West Yorkshire Police Chaplain, the Reverend Inspector Andrew Earl.

Raynes' grave:
before and after

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 18 November 1915 ], Fosse 7 de Bethune, France, 11 October 1915, Acting Sergeant John Crawshaw Raynes, 'A' Battery, Royal Field Artillery.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. On 11th October 1915, at Fosse de Bethune, his battery was being heavily bombarded by armour-piercing and gas shells. On “Cease fire” being ordered Serjeant Raynes went out under an intense shell fire to assist Serjeant Ayres, who was lying wounded forty yards away. He bandaged him, and returned to his gun when it was again ordered into action.

A few minutes later “Cease fire” was again ordered owing to the intensity of the enemy’s fire, and Serjeant Raynes, calling on two gunners to help him – both of whom were killed shortly afterwards – went out and carried Serjeant Ayres into a dug-out. A gas shell burst at the mouth of the dug-out, and Serjeant Raynes once more ran across the open, fetched his own smoke helmet, put it on Serjeant Ayres and then, himself badly gassed, staggered back to serve his gun.

On 12th October 1915 at Quality Street, a house was knocked down by a heavy shell, four men being buried in the house and four in the cellar. The first man rescued was Serjeant Raynes, wounded in the head and leg, but he insisted on remaining under heavy shell fire to assist in the rescue of all the other men. Then, after having his wounds dressed, he reported himself immediately for duty with his battery, which was again being heavily shelled.

John Raynes was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 4th December 1915.

The funeral of John Raynes took place on the 16th November 1929 at Leeds where eleven VC holders attended. Eight other Yorkshire recipients of the Victoria Cross acted as pallbearers - Captain George Sanders VC MC, Lieutenant Wilfred Edwards VC, Sergeant Frederick McNess VC, Corporal Charles Hull VC, Sergeant Albert Mountain VC, Lance Corporal Frederick Dobson VC, Private Arthur Poulter VC and Private William Butler VC.

Medal entitlement of Battery Sergeant Major John Raynes - 'A' Battery, Royal Field Artillery

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914 - 15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )


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Iain Stewart, 5 January 2009