The Man Behind the Medals
In this blog series, SOFO Museum's Research volunteers look at the stories behind some of the medal sets in the museum's collection, from those that can be seen on a visit in our dedicated Medals display to some of those that are still tucked away in the archive.
While medals will tell you a little bit about a soldier's service, it's only with further research that their full story can be revealed! SOFO's Research volunteers respond to enquiries we receive through our Research Service, helping people find out more about their relatives who served in the county regiments, and raising funds to support the museum in the process. Using a combination of the museum's records and those available elsewhere, they piece together stories like this one.
Lieutenant Vivian Edward Fanning
Vivian Edward Fanning was born on the 20 th August 1897 in Headington, Oxford, the son of Frederick & Beatrice Fanning. His father Frederick was born in Australia but had settled in England, and the Census of 1901 records the family living comfortably in Odiham with 9 servants, so his was a 'well to do' family. Vivian had one elder brother – Eric – who served as a Captain with the Bedfordshire Regiment in WW1.
Vivian was educated at Radley College and then Sandhurst. He was gazetted as 2nd Lt. on 16 th June 1915 and joined the 3rd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in England for several months before being promoted to Lt. on 30th July 1916, and posted to the 2nd Battalion in Flanders.
Lt. Fanning landed in France on 17th August 1916 and joined the 2nd Battalion at Courcelles, a rest billet on the Somme Front, being assigned to B Company. Over the next two months he and B Coy alternated between a few days in the front line and a few days in reserve, with work parties being a common duty when not in the line. On the 9 th November, after a few days rest at Mailly Maillet, the 2nd went back into the line and the B Coy commander – Captain Peploe – was killed by a sniper. Hence Lt Fanning found himself in charge of B Coy just as the 2nd Battalion were preparing for the next offensive in a few days’ time – an offensive which was part of the Battle of the Somme.
On the 12th November the Battalion moved up to the forward trenches, with B Coy to the south of the Battalionn line and scheduled to attack in the 3 rd wave. The attack was to be against Redan Ridge, a German strongpoint north of Beaumont Hamel, which included a heavily defended section known as Munich Trench.
After a short but heavy bombardment, the assault went in at 05.45 on the 13th November, with a thick mist creating confusion about directions of attack. The records also report many casualties from “friendly” fire due shells dropping short. Nevertheless, the 2nd Bn eventually reached their objective, but were isolated and nearly surrounded, forced to withdraw after heavy fighting in Munich Trench.
Casualties had been heavy over the four days of the Battle of the Ancre, with a total of 248 officers & men killed, wounded or missing. All the four Company Commanders of the 2nd Bn were casualties including Lt Fanning, who died on 14 th November 1916 aged just 19 years old.
British War Medal, Victory Medal