Bernard Vann

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The Reverend
Bernard William Vann
Bernard Vann.jpg
Born (1887-07-09)9 July 1887
Rushden, Northamptonshire, England
Died 3 October 1918(1918-10-03) (aged 31)
Ramicourt, France
Buried Bellicourt British Cemetery
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1914–1918
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit The Sherwood Foresters
Battles/wars World War I
Other work Footballer

Lieutenant Colonel Bernard William Vann, VC, MC & Bar (9 July 1887 – 3 October 1918) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the only ordained clergyman of the Church of England to win the VC in the Great War as a combatant.

Early life[edit]

Bernard Vann
Personal information
Playing position Outside left, centre forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
Hugglescote United
Irthlingborough Town
Northampton Town
1906 Burton United 12 (0)
1906 Derby County 3 (0)
1907 Leicester Fosse 0 (0)
Mansfield Wesleyans
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Vann was born in Rushden,[1] Northamptonshire where his parents, Alfred George Collins Vann and Hannah Elizabeth Vann were teachers. He had an older brother, Arthur (1884–1915).[2] He graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge and was a 1910 Cambridge hockey blue.[3] He was a footballer who as a centre-forward assisted Northampton Town and in 1906 played 12 games for Burton United (who were then a League club) before making his three League appearances for Derby County in 1906–07.[4][5][6] He also taught at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Grammar School in Leicestershire.[6]

He was ordained as a priest in 1912 and became chaplain and assistant master at Wellingborough School (1913–15).

World War I[edit]

On the outbreak of war, he volunteered as a British Army chaplain but, frustrated by difficulties and delays, enlisted in the infantry instead, initially in 28th (County of London) Battalion of The London Regiment, (The Artists’ Rifles), and was commissioned into the 1/8th Bn, The Sherwood Foresters (The Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) on 1 September 1914 and became Lieutenant on 26 April 1915.[7]

He was awarded the Military Cross in 1915. "At Kemmel on 24 April 1915 when a small advance trench which he occupied was blown in, and he himself wounded and half buried, he showed the greatest determination in organising the defence and rescuing buried men under heavy fire, although wounded and severely bruised he refused to leave his post until directly ordered to do so. At Ypres on 31 July 1915, and subsequent days, he ably assisted another officer to hold the left trench of the line, setting a fine example to those around him. On various occasions he has led patrols up to the enemy's trenches and obtained valuable information."[8] On 25 September 1915, Vann's brother Arthur was killed at Loos.[9]

In 1916 He received a second award of the Military Cross "for conspicuous gallantry in action. He led a daring raid against the enemy's trenches, himself taking five prisoners and displaying great courage and determination. He has on many previous occasions done fine work."[10]

VC action[edit]

He was 31 years old, and an Acting Lieutenant Colonel commanding 1/6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 29 September 1918 at Bellenglise and Lehaucourt, France, where he led his battalion across the St Quentin Canal through thick fog and under heavy fire. He secured his troops' advance by rushing up to the firing line and leading the line forward himself.


For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and fine leadership during the attack at Bellenglise and Lehaucourt, on September 29th, 1918. He led his battalion with great skill across the Canal de Saint-Quentin through a very thick fog and under heavy fire from field and machine guns. On reaching the high ground above Bellenglise the whole attack was held up by fire of all descriptions from the front and right flank. Realising that everything depended on the advance going forward with the barrage, Col. Vann rushed up to 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 line swept forward. Later, he rushed a field-gun single-handed and knocked out three of the detachment. The success of the day was in no small degree due to the splendid gallantry and fine leadership displayed by this officer. Lt. Col. Vann, who had on all occasions set the highest example of valour, was killed near Ramicourt on 3rd October, 1918, when leading his battalion in attack.

— The London Gazette No. 31067, 14 December 1918[11]


He was killed in action, shot by a sniper at Ramicourt, France, on 3 October 1918. He is buried in Bellicourt British Cemetery.[12]

He had married in December 1916; a posthumous son was born in June 1919.[2]


  1. ^ A Rushden Hero
  2. ^ a b "Vann – Bernard William | Jesus College Cambridge". Retrieved 2016-09-28. 
  3. ^ CUHC Vann Club
  4. ^ Vann, Bernard – Rams Centre-Forward was Victoria Cross Hero
  5. ^ Joyce, Michael (2012). Football League Players' Records 1888 to 1939. Nottingham: Tony Brown. p. 295. ISBN 190589161X. 
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ London Gazette Issue 29364 published on 12 November 1915. Page 48
  8. ^ London Gazette, 15 September 1915
  9. ^ "Arthur Harrison Allard Vann | Service Record | Football and the First World War". Retrieved 2016-09-28. 
  10. ^ London Gazette, Issue 29824 published on the 14 November 1916. Page 46
  11. ^ "No. 31067". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 December 1918. p. 14774. 
  12. ^ Entry on CWGC

External links[edit]