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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Boy 1st Class


bigbear

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Hi.

Can someone explain the role of a Boy 1st Class, in the general running of a ship, and also during a battle?

Regards,

Vulcan.

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Boys 1st Class would carry out a variety of tasks as in effect apprentice seamen or communications ratings; there were also Boy Telegraphists for wireless operation and other roles for boys aboard ships. Here is an account of probably the most famous Boy 1st Class in WWI:

31 May 1916, the Battle of Jutland "5.40pm (approx.) - 4 enemy light cruisers appeared in sight. HMS Chester turned to open fire but, being outnumbered, was hit by enemy shellfire 17 times in 3 minutes. 3 out of the 10 guns were disabled and 1/5th of the crew were either killed or wounded, including the entire crew of the forward 5.5" turret gun. This is where [John "Jack" Travers] Cornwell was stationed as sight setter, to take orders from Fire Control and apply any necessary range corrections to the gun. Mortally wounded, he remained awaiting further orders until the end of the action. Other reports inclue him volunteering to go to the top of the turret to wipe the glass so that the rangefinder could line the target, and another report says that he managed to ram home one last projectile, close the breech and press the firing button and that this projectile exploded on the German ship Wiesbaden, causing damage which led to her sinking.

1 June 1916 - HMS Chester ordered to the Humber. On arrival, the wounded were transferred to Grimsby Hospital, Cornwell amongst them.

2 June 1916 - Cornwell died from his wounds, aged 16 years and 5 months... "

http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_johncornwell.htm

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Prolly would have been used as ammunition passers, runners, and the like during battle. I don't know that any of the boys would have served inside a turret aboard Queen Mary. Somebody did a book on boys in the RN a few years back.

Boys 1st Class would carry out a variety of tasks as in effect apprentice seamen or communications ratings; there were also Boy Telegraphists for wireless operation and other roles for boys aboard ships. Here is an account of probably the most famous Boy 1st Class in WWI:

31 May 1916, the Battle of Jutland "5.40pm (approx.) - 4 enemy light cruisers appeared in sight. HMS Chester turned to open fire but, being outnumbered, was hit by enemy shellfire 17 times in 3 minutes. 3 out of the 10 guns were disabled and 1/5th of the crew were either killed or wounded, including the entire crew of the forward 5.5" turret gun. This is where [John "Jack" Travers] Cornwell was stationed as sight setter, to take orders from Fire Control and apply any necessary range corrections to the gun. Mortally wounded, he remained awaiting further orders until the end of the action. Other reports inclue him volunteering to go to the top of the turret to wipe the glass so that the rangefinder could line the target, and another report says that he managed to ram home one last projectile, close the breech and press the firing button and that this projectile exploded on the German ship Wiesbaden, causing damage which led to her sinking.

1 June 1916 - HMS Chester ordered to the Humber. On arrival, the wounded were transferred to Grimsby Hospital, Cornwell amongst them.

2 June 1916 - Cornwell died from his wounds, aged 16 years and 5 months... "

http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_johncornwell.htm

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There was more that one type of gun aboard Queen Mary! She had secondary armament, as well as torpedoes; he'd have to have been strong to be an ammunition passers. A B1C could have worked on either, or with the signals flags and a myriad of other seaman’s’ duties.

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Quite often a boy first class was esentially an able seaman just waiting for his 18th birthday and knew the tricks of the

trade. Even as late as post ww2 there was such a thing as boys time in the RAN. Join at 17 and your twelve years was counted from

the age of 18.

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