John Cleal (1895-1918)

23 year old stoker postponed his wedding to take part in the Zeebrugge raid of 1918: he was fatally wounded. Although he would have been provided with a standard War Graves Commission headstone, this memorial was paid for by public subscription in recognition of his particular sacrifice. The port of Zeebrugge was being used by German U-boats and the plan was to sink a number of old ships in the navigation channel to put the base out of commission. 70 ships and 1700 men were involved in the raid. Crucial to its success was the laying down of a smoke screen, but the wind changed and the forces came under heavy shelling from the outset. Despite this, three ships were sunk in the entrance to the Bruges Canal that led to the submarine depot, but not in the intended locations and the base was operational again in a few days. Despite this, Allied propaganda claimed it as a famous victory. Nearly 600 men were killed or wounded. 8 Victory Crosses were awarded. German losses were 6 dead, 16 wounded.