Reply To: James Michael Cunningham (1911-1977) [Able Seaman, Royal Navy] ✓
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Huddersfield Examiner 23 December 1939, page 11:
LOCAL MAN WOUNDED IN THE EXETER
Joined the Ship Not Long Ago
In the list of those wounded in the engagement between the Exeter and the Graf Spee is the name of Mr. James Cunningham, only son of Mr. and Mrs. M. Cunningham, of 105, Walpole Road, Crosland Moor. What the extent of the injuries are the parents have not yet learnt.
Mr. Cunningham has been in the Navy tbout twelve months, and was transferred to the Exeter not long ago. He is twenty-seven years of age. He was educated at St. Patrick’s School.
He is married and has three young children. His wife and the children live at Plymouth.
Huddersfield Examiner 4 & 5 March 1940:
LOCAL MAN ON H.M.S. EXETER
PRESENTED WITH GOLD WATCH BY MAYOR
“WE ARE PROUD OF YOU”
“We only did what any other ship in the British Navy would have done.” With these few words a Huddersfield man who was in H.M.S. Exeter in the battle of the River Plate modestly summed up the achievement of his ship in that engagement, when he was presented with a gold watch by the Mayor (Alderman Norman Grosaley) and members of the Town Council this morning.
He was James Cunningham, a twenty-eight-year-old A.B. (torpedo), whose home is at 105, Walpole Road, Crosland Moor. He received shrapnel wounds in the chest during the fight and is at present home on sick leave.
The presentation took place at the Mayor’s reception room at the Town Hall and in addition to members of the Town Council, Mr. G. C. Hirst (president) and Mr. L. V. Driffield (secretary) were present as representatives of the Huddersfield Chamber of Commerce. The Mayor was accompanied by the Mayoress (Mrs. Crossley).
In making the presentation the Mayor said that they were very proud to have an Exeter man with them that morning. They were all proud of the fact that a Huddersfield man was on the ship, for they knew how courageously the officers and men on that ship had behaved. Cunningham was the first wounded man in any of the services to return home to Huddersfield and they were glad that despite his recent injuries he looked so well. “I am sure you would not wish this Huddersfield lad to go away without showing him how proud and thankful we are for the service he has rendered to his country,” he added amid applause. “We are proud of you.”
The inscription on the watch reads: “Presented to James Cunningham, A.B., H.M.S. Exeter, by the Mayor and Citizens of Huddersfield, March, 1940.”
When Cunningham rose to respond he was loudly cheered.
REPLICA FOR WIFE
After thanking the Mayor for the gift he said, “The Exeter only did what any other ship in the British Navy would have done.” The Mayor announced afterwards that Cunningham would also be presented with a replica of the watch for his wife.
Later the Mayor and Mayoress and Cunningham went to Kaye’s College where the Mayor presented him with a fountain pen on behalf of the staff and students. The principal. Mr. J. Lee, presided.
Cunningham, who attended St. Patrick’s School as a boy, joined the Navy three and a half years ago and was formerly a commercial traveller. He is a married man with three children and his wife is a granddaughter of the late County Alderman Abraham Booth, of Kirkburton.
His children knew that their father was on the Exeter and they gave him a riotous welcome when he returned home. Michael, the eldest, celebrated his fifth birthday yesterday and is already going to school. Not unnaturally the battle has been a favourite topic among the schoolchildren and Michael, to use his father’s own words, is “fair suited” because his father happened to be in it.
During the battle Cunningham was wounded in the chest by shrapnel, and three other men who were working with him were killed.
A VISIT TO ST. PATRICK’S SCHOOL
Seaman Cunningham Receives Another Gift
This afternoon Seaman Cunningham visited St. Patrick’s School, where he was a scholar for eight years, during which time he played with the Rugby football teams there and occupied the position of captain.
His visit was for the purpose of receiving from Fr. Grogan a Prayer Book on behalf of the school and scholars The scholars, too, who incidentally greeted him with loud cheering and said farewell to him with some lusty singing of “For He s a Jolly Good Fellow,” also had a surprise gift made to them, for, on behalf of Cunningham, they received bags of sweets.
Fr. Grogan, introducing Cunningham to the children said that on behalf of the parish and the school they had to congratulate him on the adventure he had had — a great adventure — in which a great little ship had fought a much bigger warship, and had distinguished itself although disabled. It had certainly been a marvellous experience for him. As one of the men of the Exeter. Cunningham had shown the old spirit of the football field, when the teams had fought many a battle and won nearly every time “The old fighting spirit of the Rugby team is still in him,” he added.
Fr. Grogan said that we were fighting for Christianity against paganism. The children at the school were knitting materials for the Services, and though they were too young to serve in the Army, Navy or Air Force, they were taking their part in their prayers. He would add that prayer was more powerful than the sword. It always had been and was today.
In his reply, Cunningham said he was surprised at the welcome “We only did what any other ship in the Navy would nave done.” he added. “It was rather like a game of Rugby. We did our best.”
During his visit Cunningham renewed acquaintance with one of his former classmates. Mr. J O’Mahoney, who is now one of the masters at the school.
HE SERVED IN THE RIVER PLATE BATTLE
At the presentation by the Mayor (Alderman Norman Crossley) to Able Seaman James Cunningham, the Huddersfield man who served in H.M.S. Exeter in the battle of the River Plate. Cunningham was wounded, and it was while he was home on sick leave that the presentation was made. The gift was an inscribed gold watch. Left to right: The Mayor, Able Seaman Cunningham, the Mayor’s Chaplain (the Rev. A. C. Cooper) and the Mayoress.
Huddersfield Examiner 14 April 1977, page 15:
CUNNINGHAM — On April 9, at 32, Longwood Road, James Michael, aged 65 years, the dearly loved son of Mary and the late Michael Cunningham, devoted father of Michael, John and Frank, also loved brother of Mary and a dearly loved grandad and great-grandad. Requiem Mass at St Brigid’s Church, Longwood, on Tuesday, April 19, at 9.30am, followed by cremation at Huddersfield. Crematorium at 10.30am. Friends please accept this (the only) intimation. Flowers to C F McNulty, 485, Bradford Road, Fixby, not later than 8.45am, Tuesday, please. Requiescat in Pace.