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Double Walsall blue plaque error discovered

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 30, 2014

  • The correct details on the Walsall Central Library bust

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A SHARP-EYED Bugle reader has spotted two mistakes in a blue plaque to a First World War Victoria Cross winner.

For 25 years no one noticed that the date and the year were both wrong in the tribute to Ordinary Seaman John Henry Carless, who was posthumously awarded the V.C. after action at Heligoland Bight in the North Sea.

Walsall Running Ambassador Mark Dabbs said the tourist attraction states that the naval man died on November 11, 1916, when in fact the correct date was November 17, 1917.

That monument was put up by Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council in Carless Street in 1989, whereas the impressive bust in front of Walsall Central Library of John Henry Carless has the right date.

Mark said: "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.

"By highlighting this error perhaps enough interest might be galvanised to rectify the situation this year which marks the centenary of the start of the Great War, and as far as I'm concerned there couldn't be a better time to do it," he added

"Walsall folk, and of course I count myself as one, have a hero named John Henry Carless whose bravery and fearlessness towers head and shoulders for all to see. This doesn't mean he foreshadows the other two Victoria Cross recipients from the town, but that there are sculptures and memorials dedicated to his memory."

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 operations in the North Sea.

On board HMS Caledon the crew were mostly new recruits with very little battle experience.

Ordinary Seaman John Carless was one of these raw recruits and the ship was struck twice by 6-inch shells, although the guns remained intact.

However, during the attack Carless was badly wounded in the abdomen, but heroically remained at his station. He carried on lifting shells, showing extreme strength, even though his life was ebbing away, and also managed to clear casualties from around the guns, and cheer 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.

"The bust in front of the Central Library, which was unveiled by Rear Admiral Sir Walter Cowan, K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O., whose flagship was HMS Caledon on February 21, 1920, is a fine interpretation of this Walsall hero. But the blue plaque in Carless Street, a street changed from Oxford Street to honour the exploits of the hero on HMS Caledon, is a travesty," added Mark.

Andrew Fuller, Walsall Council Building Conservation Officer, said: "With regards to the matter of the date on the plaque for John Henry Carless in Carless Street, it has been brought to my attention and I will be looking into the matter to understand the facts."

Councillor Adrian Andrew, portfolio holder for regeneration and transport for Walsall Council Coalition, said: "We'll seek to clarify the dates and ensure the records agree with what's being stated. We also need to understand the origins of the plaque, its ownership and who maintains it before proceeding with any work required. And if there is a mistake, we'll work with the people responsible to rectify it."

See letter - Page 8

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