Northampton

Bernard Vann: WW1 Victoria Cross cleric celebrated

Bernard Vann
Image caption Hundreds of people attended the celebration of the life of Lt Col The Reverend Bernard Vann

The only Church of England cleric to win a Victoria Cross during World War One as a combatant has been celebrated in his hometown 100 years on.

Lt Col The Reverend Bernard Vann won the award on 29 September 1918 in the attack at Bellenglise and Lehaucourt.

However, he was killed by a sniper four days later and never knew he had won the highest British military honour.

A commemorative stone was unveiled by his two grandsons at a parade in Rushden, Northamptonshire, on Saturday.

One of his grandsons, Michael Vann, said it was "brilliantly symbolic" the stone would be revealed exactly 100 years on from his grandfather's award-winning feat.

Image copyright Vann Family
Image caption Bernard Vann was also a talented footballer and played centre forward as an amateur for Northampton Town, Burton United and Derby County
Image caption The parade, commanded by Captain A J Connor R Signals, was led by the Brentwood Imperial Youth Band

According to the London Gazette, on 29 September 1918 Lt Col Vann led his battalion across the Canal de Saint-Quentin "through a very thick fog and under heavy fire from field and machine guns".

He later rushed up to the firing line and with the "greatest gallantry" led the line forward before rushing a field-gun single-handed and knocked out three of the detachment.

Lt Col Vann was killed by a German sniper on 4 October 1918 - just over a month before the war ended.

Michael Vann, 72, said his grandfather's actions were "something that I know that I could never live up to but something which is humbling".

He and his brother Dr James Vann also laid a wreath after the parade, which was led by the Brentwood Imperial Youth Band.

Michael Vann said he was "feeling very honoured to play a part in [the parade]" and added "the valour of a genuine hero is being demonstrated by the support that is going to be given by a lot of people".

Related Topics

Around the BBC