Yorkshire has paid its respects to a late Leeds war hero exactly a century on from the selfless actions that earned him the country’s highest military honour.
West Yorkshire Police laid a wreath at the grave of Sergeant Major John Crawshaw Raynes, in Harehills Cemetery, as a bugler played the Last Post today in the city where he served as a policeman before and after the First World War.
Sgt Maj Raynes, originally from Sheffield, was awarded the coveted Victoria Cross after going out under heavy shellfire to save a wounded comrade at Bethune, France, on October 11 1915. Moments later, a gas shell burst and, despite being badly gassed, he staggered to find his smoke helmet and gave it to an injured colleague.
The next day he was rescued after being hurt when a house collapsed in a blast, but insisted on staying at the scene to help others trapped in the rubble.
Retired Leeds policeman Anthony Child, 54, helped the force to pay tribute to the late war hero 100 years on from his actions after learning of the soldier’s story while researching his own family history.
“I thought it would be a fitting tribute on a landmark anniversary,” he said. “People don’t realise that the First World War is as relevant today as it was then – we mustn’t forget what those men and women did.”
Mr Child’s nephew Connor Mooney, 13, laid flowers and local Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant Lucy Leadbeater placed a wreath at the grave, which Mr Child arranged to be restored in 2008.
Sgt Leadbeater, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We wanted to be here to pay our respects to a brave and courageous man.”
Sheffield City Council also marked the anniversary by installing a plaque in his honour at the Cenotaph in Barkers Pool.
Sheffield’s Lord Mayor, Coun Talib Hussain, said: “It is fitting that we honour the bravery and dedication of John Crawshaw Raynes.”
Sgt Maj Raynes suffered war injuries that later caused his health to deteriorate and he became paralysed. He died aged 42 at his home in Chapeltown, Leeds, in 1929 and the hero’s funeral was reportedly attended by around 30,000 people.
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military honour awarded to members of the armed forces in Britain and the Commonwealth.
Sergeant Major John Crawshaw Raynes was presented with his medal by King George V during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on December 4 1915.
The VC was brought into being during the Crimean War and signed off by Queen Victoria on January 29 1856.