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The Rushden Echo, 11th October 1968, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden’s great ‘forgotten hero’

Last weekend was the 50th anniversary of the death of Rushden’s greatest hero – Captain Bernard Vann, VC. Never heard of him? I’m not surprised – he seems to be one of the forgotten few.

There are towns that would be proud to boast a recipient of the Victoria Cross – the highest award for valour this country can bestow upon a person – as a son. Not so, it seems, Rushden.

It is true that Capt. Vann’s name appears on the town memorial, but when the “Echo” spotlighted his deeds of courage about 18 months ago very few people in the town realised the town had a VC.

Neighbouring Wellingborough is only to keen – and rightly so – to pay tribute to Mick Mannock, VC, and Mick only lodged in Wellingborough for a time. He was not born there. Wellingborough has a Maddock street and its Air Cadet Squadron is named after the flying ace.

The apparent lack of concern and pride in a man of Captain Vann’s calibre mystifies me, particularly when many towns go to great lengths to commemorate and remember their heroes.

I was speaking to an American and he told me that no self-respecting American township would allow a year to go by without some form of remembrance service for a Medal of Honour – the American equivalent to the Victoria Cross – winner.

He was so emphatic about this point and surprised that Rushden took little or no interest. I decided to look up a little data on the MH and VC.

There have been far more MHs awarded than VCs, but in fairness those awarded prior to 1897 should, in the main, be discarded. For example 2,300 were awarded during the American Civil War, compared with 1,346 VCs since Queen Victoria instituted the award in 1856.

However, in 1897 it was decided that MHs should only be awarded when accompanied by an eye-witness account and since that date only 577 men have been honoured with America’s most treasured military honour.

The citations which go with the awarding of the VC and MH make the blood stir and the heart pound. Acts beyond and above the call of duty is an understatement to say the least.

Capturing eight of the enemy killing four, while an arm and leg were shattered, but at the time only being able to crawl because the other leg had been blown off, crawling across a withering hail of murderous machine gun fire, not once, not twice, but three times while badly wounded to rescue comrades.

I understand that there are proposals for a shopping and community centre on a large Rushden housing estate. Why not The Bernard Vann Centre?

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