b. 28/04/1887 Sheffield, Yorkshire. d. 12/11/1929 Leeds, Yorkshire.
John Crawford Raynes (1887-1929) was born at Longley, Ecclesall, Sheffield, Yorkshire on 28th April 1887. His father was Stephen Henry Raynes, a railway clerk from Liverpool, who then became landlord of the “Sheaf View Hotel” in 1886 and was also an auctioneer’s clerk. By 1911, he had become the painter. His mother was Hannah Elizabeth Crawshaw and they married in 1886 at Wortley, near Leeds. John had three siblings: Francis “Frank”, Mary Hannah and Elizabeth Winifred Raynes.
John was educated at Heeley Church School, Sheffield and was a member of the Boys’ Brigade. Heee worked for Mr T W Wood, a coal merchant, and also for his father as a decorator until he enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery on 10th October 1904. He transferred to the Royal Field Artillery on 1st June 1905 and was posted to 42nd Battery on 19th July. He extended his service to complete six years on 29th September 1906 and was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 10th October. He was promoted to Acting Bombardier in May 1907 and Bombardier in 1910. Having transferred to the Section B Reserve in October 1910, he became a policeman in Leeds.
John married Mabel Dawson on 24th April 1907 at Leeds Registry Office, and they went on to have four children. Two of the children died in infancy, and the surviving children were called John Kenneth Raynes and Tom Crawshaw Raynes. John was recalled on 5th August 1914 and was promoted to Acting Corporal on 10th October and acting Sergeant on 31st March 1915. He was an instructor at No 2 Depot RFA at Preston and was offered a commission, which he refused. He volunteered five times for active service before being posted to A/LXXI Brigade on 19th June and went to France as a Corporal on 27th July.
On 11th October 1915 at Fosse 7 de Bethune, France, Sergeant Raynes went to the assistance of another sergeant who was lying wounded. He bandaged the injured man and returned to his gun, then, when the battery ceased firing, carried the wounded man to a dug-out and when gas shelling started, put his own gas helmet on his injured comrade and, badly gassed himself, went back to his gun. The next day he was buried, with others, under a house which had been shelled. As soon as he had been extricated he insisted on helping to rescue the others, then, having had his wounds dressed, reported for duty.
The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 4th December 1915, and he was promoted to Acting Battery Sergeant Major and returned to Britain on 1st January 1916. A number of postings followed – 5B Reserve Brigade in Edinburgh, 393 Independent Battery in Canterbury, Recruiting Training Centre in Southern Army and No 2 RFA Officer Cadet School at Topsham Barracks in Exeter. He was discharged on 11th December 1918 as no longer fit for service and was issued the Silver War Badge on 3rd January 1919. During his service, he was Initiated into Freemasonry at Saint James’ Operative Lodge, No 97, Edinburgh on 24th January 1916.
He returned to the Leeds Police as a Sergeant, but his health deteriorated and he was transferred to work in the Aliens’ Registration Office. In March 1924 worsening spinal problems forced him to give up and the Leeds Watch Committee recommended him for an annual pension. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave his home due to his ill health and Sir Gervase Beckett MP initiated the “Sergeant Raynes Fund” through The Yorkshire Post, which raised £700 by 8th November. It was used to purchase a new bungalow in Chapeltown Road, Leeds.
John suffered paralysis for the last three years of his life, during which time his wife was nursing him. He was unable to attend the VC Dinner at the House of Lords on 9th November 1929. The other Yorkshire VCs sent him a telegram expressing their regret and promising him a memento. John became very depressed over his inability to attend the Dinner, and he suffered a relapse and died at his home on 12th November 1929.
His funeral was attended by eleven VCs, of whom eight from Yorkshire (George Sanders, Wilfred Edwards, Fred McNess, Charles Hull, Albert Mountain, Frederick Dobson, Arthur Poulter and William Butler) acted as pallbearers. He was buried in Harehills Cemetery, Leeds, and the Prince of Wales sent a letter of sympathy to Mrs Raynes. The grave was renovated and re-dedicated in November 2008.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. On 26th September 1973, the medals were presented by his daughter-in-law, Mrs Margaret Raynes, to Major General Geoffrey Collin, GOC North East District, on behalf of the Royal Artillery at a ceremony in York. The medals are held by the Royal Artillery Historical Trust though are currently in storage following the closure of the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL ARTILLERY MUSEUM, WOOLWICH. (NOT DISPLAYED JAN 2015)
BURIAL PLACE: HAREHILLS CEMETERY, LEEDS, YORKSHIRE. SECTION H, GRAVE 11.
RA Chapel, Woolwich
War Illustrated, 4th December 1915