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Lieutenant and Acting Captain, 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, 1st Leeds Pals

John Gilbert Vause, known as Jack, was born in Leeds in December 1892, the third and youngest son of Frederick William Vause, a shoddy manufacturer also born in Leeds in September 1858, and his wife Sarah. On the 1911 Census Frederick stated that they had been married for 26 years, which would date their marriage to 1885, but the only record of a Frederick William Vause marrying a Sarah is in December 1875 to Sarah Harrison, at which point Frederick would have been just 17, not in itself a problem, but the 1881 Census has him as single and still living at home with his parents. (Census Records, Find My Past)

Whenever they married they had five children, four of whom survived, presumably Harold William, Frederick, John Gilbert and Dorothy F, as they are named on the various censuses. On the 1891 Census they were living at 175 Cardigan Road, Headingley, by 1901 they had moved to 34 Clarendon Road, by 1911 Airedale House, 65 Clarendon Road, and in 1916, when John was killed, their address was given as ‘Meadowfield’, 32 Clarendon Road.

Father Frederick worked for the family firm of Thomas Vause & Sons Ltd. which was in Farrar Yard, off Low Road, and he was obviously doing well as John went to the Leeds Grammar School, from 1903 to 1910, where amongst other things he was a member of the OTC, a pursuit he also followed at Leeds University, where he was a student in the Textile Department. Another interest was rugby, he being a member of the Headingley Rugby Football Club.

John joined the Leeds Pals as a Lieutenant very early on, appearing in a photo of their first officers taken at Colsterdale in September 1914. He was posted to D Company as a platoon commander, and he was also appointed Musketry and Sniping Officer. After training he went with the Pals to Egypt, arriving on 22nd December 1915. There he would have stayed until March 1916, when the battalion moved to France ready for the Big Push. When it came he was an acting captain, but with so many others of the Pals he was killed on the first day, 1st July 1916, age 23, and has no known grave. His name appears on the Thiepval Memorial, the University Memorial, and also on the family memorial in Lawnswood Cemetery.

Initially he was thought only to be missing, but as his obituary shows, this later proved not to be the case:-

There is, after all, sad confirmation of the death of Lieut. J.G. Vause, the son of Mr. F.W. Vause, of 32 Clarendon Road, Leeds. Lieut. Vause was officially reported missing by the War Office, but a private in his platoon, who is now lying wounded in the Third Western General Hospital, at Newport, gives particulars of the manner of his death. Lieut. Vause was first hit in the elbow just as he led his men over the parapet. He went on however and after having his wound bound up, reached the barbed-wire entanglements in front of the German trenches which his platoon had to take. He was hit a second time in the thigh, and, with the only remaining soldier in his platoon by his side, he lay in a trench under a terrific bombardment. His companion, in describing their situation says: “We lay there talking about Leeds and discussing the possibilities of getting home again. Lieut. Vause told me that he had been recommended for his third star (i.e. promotion to captain), and how he was very much ‘up’ about it.” Some time later the gallant officer was again hit, first on the chin and then in the back. He made the remark: “This has just about finished me off,” and then died shortly afterwards. His companion lay with two shattered legs for 36 hours before being rescued.
(Yorkshire Evening Post 11/07/1916)

He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Another memorial to him takes the form of a scholarship, set up by his father, though I have not yet discovered why it should be a medical award:-
School of Medicine Scholarships
Intercalating Scholarships 2015-2016
Each year the School of Medicine (SoM) makes several awards to Leeds medical students undertaking an undergraduate intercalating programme at the University of Leeds.
John Gilbert Vause Memorial Scholarship for Clinical Sciences
The Scholarship is in memory of Lieutenant John Gilbert Vause of the 15th West Yorkshire Regiment who died in the First Battle of the Somme in the Great War.
Rules for award:
• £1000 awarded to the highest ranking student on BSc Clinical Sciences (Medical Imaging)
• £1000 awarded to the highest ranking student on BSc Clinical Sciences (Molecular Medicine)
• £1000 awarded to the highest ranking student on BSc Clinical Sciences (Cardiovascular)

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.
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