Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oscar winning Sir Ben seeks inspiration at HMS Raleigh

ONE of Britain’s greatest actors spent a day at HMS Raleigh as he sought inspiration for a film.
Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley is looking into a Great War project – and was keen to see one of the Torpoint establishment’s most prized possessions to assist his research.
A century ago boy seaman John Travers Cornwell became one of the country’s most celebrated naval heroes and earned a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions at Jutland in 1916.
The 16-year-old continued to serve at his post aboard HMS Chester despite his gun receiving four direct hits; when the cruiser withdrew from the battle, Cornwell finally received treatment but succumbed to his wounds in hospital in Grimsby two days after the battle.

Although he was originally laid to rest in a common grave in a London cemetery, news of his bravery spread, and a popular clamour for recognition led to Cornwell being re-buried with full military honours, the VC being awarded and court painter Frank Salisbury honouring the boy’s deeds on canvas.
Ninety-five years later that recently-restored painting enjoys pride of place in St Paul’s Church at Raleigh.
The training establishment’s Commanding Officer Capt Steve Murdoch explained how today’s young sailors learn about Cornwell’s dedication and bravery – and hopefully can draw some inspiration from his deeds.
“Jack was just 16 years old when he took part in the battle – and only four weeks out of training.
“As he’s close in age and experience to many of today’s recruits, he’s someone they can identify with – and he’s a fine example of someone who displayed all of the Royal Navy’s values of courage, commitment, discipline, respect and integrity.”
Having spent time in the ‘presence’ of Boy Cornwell, Sir Ben, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gandhi nearly 30 years ago and has appeared in a string of critically-acclaimed movies including Schindler’s List and the House of Sand and Fog, toured Raleigh’s new heritage centre and witnessed a passing out parade of rookie sailors who’d completed their nine-week basic training.
“The parade and the emotional scenes of pride and achievement will stay with me for a long time,” said Sir Ben.
“The pride and dignity of the recruits – and their friends and relatives – was an indelible image. All this heightened by awareness of Jack Cornwell’s extraordinary courage and sense of duty.”

Capt Steve Murdoch shows Sir Ben Kingsley around Raleigh's new heritage centre. Picture: Dave Sherfield, HMS Raleigh

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