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 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 (sometimes Fynn) VC (24 November 1893 – 30 March 1917) was a 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]

Finn 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 (of Lerryn, Cornwall), Bertha Wiggett (of Queensland, Australia) 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.

His father John Finn served in the Duke Of Cornwall's Light Infantry in the Boer War, and again in the Special Reserve during the First World War. James Finn served as a territorial soldier with the 5th Battalion, DCLI before moving 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 (Service) Battalion of the South Wales Borderers. On enlistment his surname was incorrectly recorded as "Fynn".[1]

Photograph of James Finn (Fynn) VC

On 15 July 1915, the battalion landed at Gallipoli. James was wounded in the knee and chest, and invalided back to Britain. After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion had moved to Mesopotamia, and Finn rejoined them there. He acted as orderly to the CO, Lt Col C E Kitchen.

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.[2]

[3][4]

Finn was decorated with the ribbon of the VC by Lt Gen Sir Stanley Maude at Amara on 5 November 1916. On 29 March 1917 he was wounded in the leg in an engagement at Marl Plain, 50 miles north of Baghdad. He was taken by stretcher to the field ambulance the next day, but on the way he was struck in the side by another bullet, which proved fatal.

The VC was presented to his father at a public investiture in Hyde Park on 2 June 1917 by King George V.

Finn was also mentioned in dispatches (London Gazette, 19 October 1916). He was awarded the Serbian Cross of the Karageorge (1st Class) with swords (London Gazette, 15 February 1917).

[5]

Legacy[edit]

His Memorial at Basra, Iraq can be found at panel numbers 16 and 32 on the Basra Memorial which was originally sited within Basra War Cemetery.

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 bank 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

In March, 2016 a commemorative paving stone was unveiled at Mount Folly in Bodmin [6]

There are memorials also at Havard Chapel, Brecon Cathedral; St Michael's Church, Abertillery; Town War Memorial, Abertillery.[7]

There is a painting of the action which was published in The Sphere, Tatler, and also The Times Illustrated History of the Great War. The original artwork was by Ugo Matania and is held at the Wellcome Library, London.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Finn VC Estate". National Recording Project. Public Monuments & Sculpture Association. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  2. ^ "No. 29765". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 June 1915. p. 9418. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b "First World War: Private Fynn, VC, S. W. Borderers | Art UK Art UK | Discover Artworks First World War: Private Fynn, VC, S. W. Borderers". Artuk.org. 1916-04-09. Retrieved 2016-12-09. 
  5. ^ Finn, James Henry, Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  6. ^ "Cornwall News Headlines | UK News & World News | West Briton". Cornishguardian.co.uk. 2016-11-30. Retrieved 2016-12-09. 
  7. ^ "James Henry Fynn". Memorialstovalour.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-09. 

External links[edit]