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Walsall blue plaque error will be corrected after 25 years

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 13, 2014

By John Butterworth

  • Mark Dabbs by the library bust and Ordinary Seaman John Carless

  • The correct details on the Walsall Central Library bust and the incorrect blue plaque in Carless Street

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TWO mistakes in a blue plaque to a First World War Victoria Cross winner which have been on public display for 25 years will now be corrected.

Sharp-eyed Bugle reader and Walsall Running Ambassador Mark Dabbs noticed that the date and the year were both wrong in the tribute to Ordinary Seaman John Henry Carless.

The monument was put up by Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council in the town's Carless Street in 1989 to honour the seaman who was posthumously awarded the VC after action at Heligoland Bight in the North Sea.

No one noticed that the tourist attraction stated that the naval man died on November 11, 1916, when the correct date was November 17, 1917.

Ironically, the impressive bust of John Carless in front of Walsall Central Library has the correct date on it.

Following Mark bringing the mistakes to the Bugle's attention we highlighted the story in our January 30, 2014, edition and asked the council to correct the errors.

This week the council replied when deputy leader Cllr Adrian Andrew said in a statement: "A plaque has commemorated VC winner John Carless' achievements since the 1980s without a problem. However, when we were contacted recently to be told there is a date wrong we promised to replace it. Unfortunately, we're having to go through some legal hoops to trace the owners in order to get their permission before we replace it."

We contacted Mark Dabbs who said he was delighted after hearing the council's response.

"It is great news and a credit to The Bugle which shows it is a local paper that gets action in the community," he said.

In January Mark wrote to us saying: "Following the success of The Bugle campaign to correct a mistake on the Sir Henry Newbolt blue plaque in Bilston, I would like to raise people's awareness to this double mistake in Walsall."

Now he is hoping the council will rectify the situation this year as it is the centenary of the start of the Great War. "As far as I am concerned there couldn't be a better time to do it," he said.

On November 17, 1917, in mine-infested waters, Admiral Beatty, head of the British fleet, decided to trap the German warships in a mine-sweeping operation in the North Sea.

On board HMS Caledon the crew were mostly new recruits with very little battle experience. Ordinary Seaman Carless was one of those raw recruits and the ship was struck twice by 6-inch shells, although the guns remained intact.

Carless was badly wounded in the abdomen but heroically remained at his station, lifting shells, clearing casualties and cheering on the new crew before finally collapsing.

Six months to the day of his death his parents received their son's Victoria Cross from King George V.

To mark the war centenary The Bugle will be printing a special 96-page colour book to honour the Black Country heroes in the Great War. Entitled We Will Remember Them it will be available in shops and our offices in May priced £4.95.

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