Background and early life
A member of the Vaux Breweries family, his grandfather Cuthbert Vaux (1779-1850) established the brewery in 1806. Vaux was born in Bishopwearmouth, the son of John Storey Vaux (1834–1881) and his wife, Harriet, née Douglas (1837–1901). He was educated at the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen and joined the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers.
Vaux was a Major in the Durham Voluntary Artillery when he volunteered for service with the Imperial Yeomanry during the Second Boer War. He was appointed Machine Gun Commander, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the Army from 3 February 1900, the day after he left Liverpool for South Africa on the SS Monteagle. He served in the 5th Battalion, where commanded the Maxim guns and took part in over 80 operations in the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony and the Cape Colony. He was mentioned in despatches 7 times, received the Queen's South Africa Medal with four clasps, and was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in November 1901. In 1903, he received the Volunteer Officers' Decoration.
Vaux commanded the 7th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in France and Belgium from 1911 to 1919 and throughout World War I. The DLI fought in every major battle of the Great War, at Ypres, Loos, Messines, Cambrai on the Somme, in the mud of Passendale and to victory in 1918.
Vaux was an extremely popular commander. The 7th DLI was recruited in Sunderland and many of the men under his commanded he knew personally. In his first letter from the front he wrote to his wife " so my dear this is our first night on the front line. It is now past midnight, I have see the men and made sure they all have had a hot drink and dry socks.... I very much fear that this is a war such as we have never seen before". He believed in leading by example and took part in many major actions. On Whit Sunday 1915 (23/05/15) the 7th DLI was ordered "Over the Top" in the action that was to become known as the "Second Battle of Ypres" . According to his letters, and letters sent by the men under his command, although it was highly irregular, Vaux chose to lead the attack himself. "at 11.00am we where ordered over the top.... When I assembled the men for role call at tea time (17.00) the count attested to the loss of 700 of my command" of which Vaux himself was one of only 3 surviving Officers. Despite this terrible event the 7th was reinforced and Vaux commanded them until April 1918 when he contracted dysentery and was invalided home. His letters, confirm that 'Chancellor' his favourite hunter and the horse he had brought with him from his home in Yorkshire to the battles field of France, as his companion and war horse travelled back with him after 4 years of War. Chancellor, live out the rest of his day in the fields of Brettanby Manor.
Colonel Vaux was mentioned in despatches 6 times during World War I and was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1916 and an Officer of the Ordre du Mérite Agricole in 1919. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross VC in 1918. However dispatches were lost with his retirement and the award was not received.
The Ordre du Mérite Agricole was awarded to him for his support of the farmers in France, 1914-1918 war. During the times that his Battalion was not on active duty at the front. Colonel Vaux volunteered himself and his troops to help with the harvest and to give general assistance to the farmers. His work greatly help to feed the beleaguered people of France, and for this he was awarded one of France highest honours.
Colonel Vaux was one of the first men to interest himself in the Boy Scout movement. In the early 1900s he started taking the sons of his brewery works and other Sunderland boys on camping weekends, to show them the countryside and awaken in them a love of nature. He was a close friend of Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, having met him in the South African War. On 22 February 1908 Lord Baden-Powell visited him in Sunderland. Together they formed the official Scout troop (The Vaux Own) in Sunderland which still operates today. There is good reason to believe that this was the first official Scout Group in the world.
Vaux owned and directed Vaux Breweries with his brother Cuthbert, for most of his life as well as being an active and popular member of the Sunderland community. He was a highly accomplished Landowner and farmer, a keen member of the Zetland Hunt, and the first President of the Wearside Football League 1892-1898.
At a dinner party in 1925, Vaux choked on a rabbit bone. Medical help could not be received quickly enough, and his health was so severely affected that he was moved to a nursing home on Windsor Crescent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne for treatment. He died there in 1925 and is buried in St Cuthbert's churchyard in Barton, North Yorkshire, near his home, Brettanby Manor.
In 1906, Vaux married Emily Eve Lellam Ord OBE (1876–1966), the eldest daughter of Henry Moon Ord, a shipowner of Sunderland; they had four children:
- Rose Lellam Ord Vaux (1907–1994)
- Emily Maguerita Ord Vaux (1909–1994) M: Oliver, Bertram Morogh-Ryan. Flying Officer (F) No. 41 Squadron RAF (KIA) 1939-1945
- Ernest Ord Vaux (1911–1936) Captain, died from a polo accident in Aden, while seconded from the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays) to the Somaliland Camel Corps.
- Peter Douglas Ord Vaux (1913–1980) Wing Commander, No. 608 Squadron RAF (The Kipper Squadron), 1939-1945
Vaux Family records, Letter Colonel Vaux to Mrs Vaux 1915-1917