Jack Michell

Jack Michell

Jack Michell lost his life in the line of duty on the 8th June 1941. His Red Plaque was unveiled on the 14th August 2023.

Jack was a volunteer Leading Firefighter of the Auxiliary Fire Service in Penzance during World War Two. He was married with two children and worked at the family’s jeweller business. He volunteered to go to Plymouth, which had been heavily bombed and worked there for three days, before returning to Penzance where he was advised to have an evening off. Instead, he decided to answer the call to protect his town. He tragically lost his life aged 36 whilst on duty on June 8, 1941 due to a delayed action bomb that exploded in the backyard of a house on St James Street, after darkness had fallen. He was working in the next street.

The incident report from June 12 1941 said:

“Emerging at very great speed from a belt of low-lying cloud, an enemy raider swept low over a south west town during daylight on Sunday evening, dropping five bombs as a result of which nine people have lost their lives and several others are injured and in hospital.

“The attack took the majority of persons completely by surprise and people were pursuing their normal occupations where the bombs fell in the centre of a residential district.”

Four houses in a terrace were completely demolished and widespread damage has been caused over a considerable area. Further damage was caused when a delayed action bomb burst later in the evening.

This information only came to light recently at a local firefighters veterans club cleaned his grave. They felt Jack’s sacrifice for his local community should be remembered.

Eighty-two years after the tragedy, the fire Brigades Union honoured his memory with a red plaque funded by the Firefighters 100 Lottery.

The granddaughter of Jack, Pip Ainsworth, laid a wreath at the plaque in memory of her grandfather and on behalf of her mother Yvonne, who is 89 years old. Yvonne was only seven years of age when her father failed to return home and still remembers that day with sadness.

She spoke at the ceremony:

“Thank you again everyone for being here today, and remembering the bravery of one man, truly loved by his family, who died far too young doing his duty by serving his country. Jack Michell, we owe so much to you and the hundreds of thousands, who like you, made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Val Hampshire, Executive Council member for the South West said:

“This moving tribute will sit proudly in Penzance, as a place for all to remember his brave sacrifice. Thank you to everyone who has paid their respects on this day. Together we will ensure that Jack Michell is never forgotten.”

David Carlisle, a retired Station Commander at Penzance Fire Station, was part of a team that researched the background of the plaque and Mr Michell:

“We found out about Jack purely by chance. During COVID we undertook a tour of the local cemetery. In Penzance there’s over 100 Commonwealth war graves in the cemetery and by chance we came across the grave of Jack Michell. We look forward to remember his bravery and the contribution and I think we’ll do so in the future by inspiring us in what we can do as people when things are hard and difficult. So the plaque will inspire as well as remind us of the past.”

John Navin, Cornwall Watch Manager said:

“I am proud to have played a part in ensuring that the bravery and sacrifice of Firefighter Jack Michell is remembered through the striking Red Plaque placed in his name. All of us involved in this project hope that his family, now and in the future, will be able to look at this plaque and be proud that his service and sacrifice will never be forgotten by future generations of firefighters.”

Below are memories added by those who knew Jack Michell or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Jack Michell that you wish to add, please include your memory below.

Please help support our Firefighters with the Firefighters 100 Lottery, a weekly online lottery created to support firefighters, their bereaved families and to honour the bravery and sacrifice of firefighters killed in the line of duty. With your help we can have schemes such as the Red Plaque Project for memorials to those lives lost.

Learn about the history of the Red Plaque Project and discover other Firefighters that have also received Red Plaques.

Photo credits: Lee Seale

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