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Image of War grave headstone with a poppy wreath laid in front of it
Kindly supplied by Winchester College archives

Commemoration to be held for WWI hero

This week marks the centenary of the death of Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Vann V.C. (1907) the only Jesuan Victoria Cross holder and highly decorated war hero. On Saturday 29 September, a ceremony will be held at the war memorial in Rushden, Northamptonshire to unveil a new commemorative V.C. stone.

On leaving school Vann did not come up to Cambridge straight away but worked as a master at Ashby de la Zouch school.  During this period he played for Northampton, Burton United and Derby County at soccer and also achieved hockey colours for Leicestershire.  He arrived at Jesus a year later, matriculating in 1907.  

Vann was a member and President of the Farragoes debating society, and a founder and later president of the Roosters debating society. His College sports career was also successful, becoming captain of the soccer team in 1910 and being awarded a Blue for his hockey playing in 1910. He was joined at Jesus in 1909 by his brother Arthur “Baby” Vann, with whom he played in College Soccer team. 

On leaving Jesus in 1910 Vann was ordained Deacon and was Curate of St Barnabas New Humberstone in Leicestershire from 1910, and assistant master and chaplain at Wellingborough School from 1912 until he joined the army. 

Vann’s military career was distinguished.  From joining the 28th London Regiment as a private soldier in 1915, he rose to become Lieutenant Colonel in the Sherwood Foresters and was awarded the Military Cross with Bar, the Croix de Guerre and the Victoria Cross.  He was mentioned twice in despatches and wounded 5 times.  His VC citation says that during the attack at Bellenglise and Leharcourt on 19 September 1918 Vann “…rushed up the firing line and with the greatest gallantry led the line forward.  By his prompt action and absolute contempt for danger the whole situation was changed, the men were encouraged and the whole line swept forward.” (The War List of Jesus College Cambridge 1914 - 1918).

Less than a month later he was killed, leading another attack at Ramicourt. He had recently been married to Doris Beck on 27 December 1917 and she gave birth to their son Geoffrey on 2 June 1919. (Jesus College Cambridge, Keeper of the Records book 1901-1920)  

A full autobiography of Vann, The Christian Soldier by Charles Beresford was published by Helion and Company in 2016 (ISBN-10: 1910777315, ISBN-13: 978-1910777312).

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