James Fynn

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James Henry Finn
VCJamesHenryFynn.jpg
Nickname(s) little finn
Born 24 November 1893
St Clement, Truro, Cornwall
Died 30 March 1917 (aged 23)
Mesopotamia
Buried at Remembered on the Basra Memorial
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service - 1917 
Rank Private
Unit 4 Bn, South Wales Borderers
Awards Victoria Cross
Order of the Star of Karageorge

James Henry Finn VC (24 November 1893 – 30 March 1917) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was also awarded the Order of Karageorge which is Serbia's equivalent to the Victoria Cross.

Early life[edit]

Fynn was born in St Clement near Truro, Cornwall, to Frederick John Finn (b. 1873) and Mary Baxter Finn (née Uglow). The family later moved to Downing St., Bodmin. Fynn was from a big family, with five brothers (Frederick, David, Sussex, Albert E.R.(of Kilhallon, Par, Cornwall) and Herbert (known as John)) and five sisters (Florence King, Elizabeth Finn, Annie Hoskin, Bertha Wigget (of Watchet, Somerset) and Beatrice Capper (formerly Port, of Portishead, Somerset)). One sister, Elizabeth Mary Finn, died in 1953 and was buried at Bodmin with her father at Bodmin Old Cemetery. Interestingly, the headstone also mentions James, killed in action 1917.

Finn went to the South Wales Valleys looking for work. He eventually found employment at the colliery at Cwmtillery near Abertillery. At the Colliery he made friends with Willie Townsend and eventually went to live with the family in Frederick Street which has since been demolished.

Military service[edit]

On the outbreak of War he immediately enlisted with the local Regiment, The 4th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers.

It was on 9 April 1916 at Sanna-i-Yat, Mesopotamia (now Iraq), that 22 year old Private Fynn earned the Victoria Cross for his bravery.

For most conspicuous bravery. After a night attack he was one of a small party which dug-in in front of our advanced line and about 300 yards from the enemy's trenches. Seeing several wounded men lying out in front he went out and bandaged them all under heavy fire, making several journeys in order to do so. He then went back to our advanced trench for a stretcher and, being unable to get one, he himself carried on his back a badly wounded man into safety. He then returned and, aided by another man who was wounded during the act, carried in another badly wounded man. He was under continuous fire while performing this gallant work.

The London Gazette, 26 September 1916[1]

Fynn was, according to family records and letters, badly wounded. He was carried back to safety, he died of his injuries that day.[1]

Legacy[edit]

His Memorial at Basra, Iraq can be found at panel numbers 16 and 62. The Basra Memorial was originally sited within Basra War Cemetery but in 1997 the Memorial was moved by presidential decree of Saddam Hussain. The move, carried out by the authorities in Iraq, involved a considerable amount of manpower, transport costs and sheer engineering on their part, the Memorial has been re-erected in its entirety. The Basra Memorial is now located 32 kilometres along the road to Nasiriyah, in the middle of what was a major battleground during the Gulf War. The Memorial consists of a roofed colonnade of white Indian stone, 80 metres long, with an obelisk 16 metres high as the central feature. The names are engraved on slate panels fixed to the wall behind the columns. More than 40,000 British, Indian and West African dead who died in the operations in Mesopotamia from the Autumn of 1914 to the end of August 1921 are commemorated on the Memorial.

In 1966 Finn was also remembered at his home town of Bodmin when an estate was named "Finn VC Estate" in his honour. The ceremony was attended by many members of his family and members of his Regiment. The plaque commemorating the event was unveiled, and can be seen opposite the library in Bodmin. Sadly his VC is now kept locked away in a vault after it was donated to Bodmin Town Council, it has not been shown in public for many years.

Whilst his body was never returned to Cornwall he is remembered on his father's headstone in Bodmin Cemetery.

John FINN Died Sept 25 1942 aged 69

Also his son Pte J.H. FINN VC Killed in Action 31 March 1917

and his daughter Elizabeth Mary FINN died 4 Nov 1953 aged 53

In memory of Bessie 4.11.53 From Officers & staff at St Lawrence's Hospital

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Finn, James Henry, Commonwealth War Graves Commission