16-year-old naval recruit was town’s youngest casualty

BEWDLEY REMEMBERS: From left, Chris Bishop, Penny Griffiths and Mayor of Bewdley Derek Killingworth. Picture: COLIN HILL

WAR HERO: Jack Bishop was Bewdley's youngest combatant killed in the First World War.

First published in Local Kidderminster Shuttle: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

IT IS a story of bravery and patriotism that highlights the tragic impact the First World War had on lives in Wyre Forest.

Jack Bishop, of Lax Lane in Bewdley, lied about his age in September, 1913 and joined the Navy at 14 years old.

By August the following year he was fighting in the First World War and aboard HMS Edgar, contributing to one of the first British naval successes in the conflict, capturing a German timber boat near the island of Jura.

He helped blockade shipping lanes to Germany and, after a visit home to Bewdley during his leave, helped HMS Viknor to capture Baron Hans Adam Von Wedell, a senior member of the German secret service, who smuggled his countrymen into Europe from America.

Tragically, however, Jack was never able to celebrate these heroics with his family and friends.

He died, aged 16, alongside his comrades when HMS Viknor was struck by a German mine, becoming Bewdley’s youngest combatant killed in the war.

John Bishop, Jack’s distraught father, kept the back door of his Lax Lane property open until his own death in 1927, just in case his son ever returned.

The story of Jack, who previously worked as a butcher’s errand boy in the town, is now displayed at Bewdley Museum as part of the Bewdley Remembers exhibition.

An official opening of the exhibition last month was attended by the Mayor of Bewdley, Derek Killingworth, Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier and Earl Baldwin of Bewdley.

Jack’s great-nephew, Chris Bishop, was also present, having travelled from his home in South Africa to attend the event.

Mr Bishop, a journalist who began his career as a trainee with the Kidderminster Shuttle, said: “I was a little bit emotional and very proud at the way he was honoured. Wherever Jack is I think he is smiling.

“I have been hearing Jack’s story for over 40 years since I was a child and it was a traumatic episode for my family but, through this event, I feel a sense of closure.”

The Bewdley Remembers exhibition has been created by volunteers and includes information and artefacts representing life in the town during the First World War.

Penny Griffiths, chairman of the town’s centenary commemorations steering group, which helped organise the exhibition, said: “This is really only the beginning of the centenary commemorations and the run of exhibitions as we have four and a half years until the centenary of the Armistice in 2018.

“If local people have any artefacts, letters, posters, books, newspapers and in particular photographs from the 1914-1918 era and would be willing to loan them to the museum, we would love it if they would get in touch as we are keen to learn more about Bewdley during the war years.”

Anyone interested in loaning items to future exhibitions should contact Julian Phillips, group secretary, on 01299 403752 or email: julian.phillips@wyreforestdc.gov.uk

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