Today, 7th November, marks the anniversary of the action in 1914 for which Old Wellingtonian John Franks Vallentin was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
John came to Wellington in 1895 and left in 1898. He was in Mr Purnell’s House, now known as the Picton. He was commissioned into the Army in 1899, served in the 2nd Boer War, and was promoted to Captain in 1909. In October 1914 he arrived in Belgium with his Regiment, the South Staffordshires.
He was immediately involved in the First Battle of Ypres, in which losses were so severe that on 6 November, Vallentin’s battalion and the 2nd Royal Warwicks were formed into one small battalion under his command, there being no officers of higher rank left in either unit. The following day, at Zillebeke, he led them in an attack in which he was killed. His citation reads:
When leading the attack against the Germans under a very heavy fire he was struck down, and on rising to continue the attack was immediately killed. The capture of the enemy’s trenches which followed was in great measure due to the confidence which the men had in their Captain, arising from his many previous acts of great bravery and ability.
John’s body was never identified, and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. In 1960 his Victoria Cross and other medals were given to Wellington by his relative Claude Vallentin, also an OW, and they are now displayed in Great School.