Sheffield appeal to find family of VC hero John

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Sheffield City Council are hoping to track down the family of a Sheffield man who won the Victoria Cross 100 years ago.

Sergeant-Major John Crawshaw Raynes was awarded the medal during World War One for an act of outstanding heroism during the Battle of Loos on the Western Front in France.

This is his award citation: “No. 36380. Sergeant-Major J. C. Raynes, (Royal Field Artillery). For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. On 11th Oct., 1915, at Fosse 7 de Bethune, his Battery was being heavily bombarded by armour-piercing and gas shells. On “Cease Fire” being ordered Sergeant-Major (then Acting Sergeant) Raynes, went out under an intense shell fire to assist Sergeant Ayres, who was lying wounded forty yards away.

“He bandaged him and returned to his gun, when it was again ordered into action. A few minutes later “Cease Fire” was again ordered owing to the intensity of the enemy fire, and Sergeant-Major Raynes, calling on two gunners to help him – both of whom were killed shortly afterwards – went out and carried Sergeant Ayres into a dug-out.

“A gas shell burst at the mouth of the dug-out, and Sergeant-Major Raynes, once more ran across the open, fetched his own smoke helmet, put it on Sergeant Ayres, and then, himself badly gassed, staggered back to serve his gun.

“On 12th Oct., 1915, at Quality Street, a house was knocked down by a heavy shell, four men being buried in the house and four in the cellar. The first man rescued was Sergeant-Major Raynes, wounded in the head and leg, but he insisted on remaining under heavy shell fire to assist in the rescue of all the other men.

“Then, after having his wounds dressed, he reported himself immediately for duty with his Battery, which was again being heavily shelled.”

John Raynes was born in Heeley in 1887. He joined the Royal Horse and Field Artillery in 1904 and then served with Leeds City Police from 1912, before enlisting in 1914.

He returned to his police duties in Leeds after the war but his wartime injuries meant that he could not continue. An obituary in The Times said that he became paralysed in 1926 and had to be nursed full tiem by his wife.

He died in 1929 aged just 42, with an estimated 25-30,000 people turning out for his funeral in Leeds, such was the popularity of this brave man.

The Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government is presenting the city council with a plaque to commemorate 100 years since Sheffield-born Sgt Maj Raynes was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1915. It will be unveiled at a ceremony in Barkers Pool.

A spokesman from the city council said: “We would like any remaining members of his family to join the commemoration and unveiling of the plaque in October.

“Any members of his family or any of your readers who may know how they may be contacted should call Sheffield City Council on 0114 273 5621.”

n You can read more about John Raynes on http://www.chrishobbs.com/johnraynes1915.htm