Bernard Vann

Leicester Fosse & The First World War: Bernard Vann

During the First World War, Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Vann won the Victoria Cross, the Military Cross twice and the French Croix de Guerre.

On 3 October, 1918, four days after winning the VC, and only six weeks before the War ended, he was shot dead by a sniper on the Western Front.

Eleven years earlier, Bernard was an amateur centre-forward for Leicester Fosse. Although he was only 20, he had previously played for Southern League Northampton Town in 1905, before spending the 1906/07 season playing in the Football League for Burton United (for whom he appeared against Leicester Fosse in March 1906) and Derby County.

The Leicester Fosse Directors’ Minutes indicate that although Bernard played for Fosse reserves twice in trial matches in August 1907, he never appeared in the first team. This was despite a contemporary report describing him as a pacey, dashing forward who possessed a good shot with either foot who was always dangerous in front of goal.

Later that season, Bernard became a student at Jesus College Cambridge. Before graduating three years later, he won a Hockey Blue.

Expand photo
Fosse minutes book from August 1907
Fosse minutes book from August 1907

A Fosse minutes book from August 1907, with Bernard Vann's name pictured in the centre.

In 1910, he entered the Church becoming assistant junior curate at St. Barnabas Church in Leicester. He was ordained as a priest in 1912 and became chaplain and assistant school master at Wellingborough School, in 1913.

When War broke out in August 1914, Bernard enlisted in the 28th London Battalion and two days later he was commissioned into the 1/8th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment. He arrived in France in February 1915. In April, at Kemmel, under heavy fire, he rescued buried men in a blown out trench and led intelligence missions up to enemy lines. These actions resulted in him winning the Military Cross. He was also promoted to Captain.

He was wounded in the Battle of Loos in October 1915.

Expand photo
Bernard Vann's headstone
Bernard Vann's headstone

A Victoria Cross is engraved onto Bernard's headstone.

In June 1916, Bernard won the Military Cross near Bellicourt for leading a daring raid and taking five prisoners ‘with great courage and determination’ despite two of the enemy coming at him with fixed bayonets.

His actions resulted in his being awarded the French Croix de Guerre in February 1917.

He assumed command of the 1/6th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters in September 1917.

On 29 September, 1918, Bernard won the VC at Bellenglise. He led his Battalion across the St. Quentin Canal through thick fog under heavy fire. He secured the advance by rushing up to the firing line and singlehandedly knocking out a field gun.

Expand photo
Jamie Vardy at Victoria Park
Jamie Vardy at Victoria Park

Jamie Vardy holds up an image of Bernard Vann at Victoria Park in 2014.

Four days later he was dead, shot by a sniper at Ramincourt when his Battalion was about to attack on the Fonsomme-Beaurevoir Line.

In October 2014, a party from Leicester City Football Club visited Bernard’s grave in the Bellicourt British Cemetery.  

A Victoria Cross is engraved onto his headstone. When the first team players paid their respects at the Victoria Park War Memorial, it fell to Jamie Vardy, as a striker, to pay tribute to Bernard. 

Latest News

Latest Galleries

Latest Videos

Leicester City Crest

Latest News

More Videos

Latest Images