b. 01/03/1894 Kensington, London. d. 28/06/1917 east of Loos, France.
Frank Bernard Wearne (1894-1917), known as Bernard, was born at 45 Matheson Road, Fulham, London on 1st March 1894. His father, also Frank, was a wine merchant, co-founder of Feuerheerd Wearne, which was taken over by Gonzales Byass, producers of Tio Pepe sherry. He married Ada nee Morris in 1888 in Steyning, Sussex. They had six children, though sadly two of the sons were killed in the Great War, including Bernard.
Bernard was initially educated by Reverend DH Marshall of Ovingdean. He won a scholarship in 1908 to Bromsgrove School, Worcestershire where he became Head Monitor before leaving in 1912. Hee was a member of the 1st XV and a Corporal in the Officer Training Corps. He then went to Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1913, where he was a member of the University Officer Training Corps, but because of the outbreak of war, he never completed the course.
He enlisted on 3rd September 1914 at Westminster and joined B Company, 18th (1st Public Schools) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers on 15th September. He was deemed medically fit, though was short sighted. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in November, but reverted to Private in December. He applied for a commission on 29th April 1915 and was commissioned in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Essex Regiment on 16th May 1915. He was attached to 10th Battalion, and went to France on 13th December. On 5th June 1916, near Carnoy, he and three scouts managed to capture a member of the German 62nd Regiment.
On 3rd July, he was wounded in the right arm and was evacuated from Le Havre, and was treated at 1st London General Hospital, where he was found unfit for six months. He was sent on leave until 20th February 1917. He was not passed medically fit until 6th April, when he joined 11th Battalion and returned to France in May.
On 28th June 1917 east of Loos, France, Second Lieutenant Wearne, commanding a small party in a raid on the enemy’s trenches, had gained his objective in the face of fierce opposition and managed to maintain his position against repeated counter-attacks. Then, realising that if the left flank was lost his men would have to give way, he leaped on to the parapet and followed by his left section, ran along the top of the trench firing and throwing bombs. While doing this he was severely wounded, but continued directing operations until he received two more wounds, the second mortal.
The VC was presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 20th October 1917. It was the only VC presented to the Essex Regiment in the Great War. Sadly, Bernard’s body was lost following his action, and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His father bequeathed his medals and his brother Keith’s (also killed in WWI) to his son William. Bernard’s medals were auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1977 for £7,000 and by Spink’s on 17th December 1997 for £54,000, when they were purchased by Michael Ashcroft. They are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE – ON LOOS MEMORIAL, FRANCE. PANEL 85-87.
Thomas Stewart – Image of Wearne VC’s name on the Loos Memorial.