b. 07/05/1896 Marylebone, London. d. 26/06/1917 Epehy, France.
John Spencer Dunville (1896-1917) was born at 46 Portland Place, Marylebone, London on 7th May 1896. His father, John Dunville CBE DL, hailed from Ireland, and was Political Private Secretary to 8th Duke of Devonshire 1890-1908 and became Chairman of Dunville & Co Whiskey Distillers on the death of his father in 1910. John married Violet Ann Blanche nee Lambart on 7th January 1892. They were both passionate hot air balloon enthusiasts and competed internationally. He twice crossed the Channel, and also served in World War I as Squadron Commander of No 1 Balloon Training Wing in Roehampton. He also transferred to the RAF as a Major/Temporary Colonel Kite Balloon Officer. He was awarded a CBE for his service. John junior had three siblings: Robert Lambart, William Gustavus and Una.
John was educated at Ludgrove School at Cockfosters and Eton College until the summer of 1914 (Officer Training Corps from May 1912). At Eton he was a member of Mr William’s House and later Mr Robeson’s House. He passed matriculation for Trinity College, Cambridge. He applied for a commission at Cambridge on 31st August 1914. He was commissioned in 5th Reserve Cavalry Regiment on 16th September 1914. An application to the Royal Flying Corps on 7th April 1915 was accepted and he passed the medical at York on 19th April, but his course was cancelled and he transferred to 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and went to France on 6th June 1915. During the Battle of Loos on 26th/27th September, he led a party detailed to cover the withdrawal of a howitzer battery that had been temporarily abandoned. John transferred to 1st King’s Dragoon Guards on 4th January 1916 and was attached to 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers).
He contracted trench fever and was evacuated on 9th May 1916 back to England. He was found unfit on 14th May, and he was sent on leave, and he was out of action until a medical board on 2nd October at York found him fit for action. He returned to France on 22nd December with 1st Royal Dragoons.
On the night of 24th-25th June 1917 at Epehy, France, when in charge of a party consisting of Scouts and Royal Engineers engaged in the demolition of the enemy’s wire, John displayed great gallantry and disregard of all personal danger. In order to ensure the absolute success of the work entrusted to him, 2nd Lt. Dunville placed himself between the N.C.O. of the Royal Engineers and the enemy’s fire, and thus protected, this N.C.O. was enabled to complete a work of great importance. 2nd Lt. Dunville, although severely wounded, continued to direct his men in the wire-cutting and general operations until the raid was successfully completed, thereby setting a magnificent example of courage, determination and devotion to duty, to all ranks under his command. John later died of his wounds.
As he never married, his VC was presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th August 1917. John died of his wounds at 5th Cavalry Field Ambulance at 3.20am on the 26th June and was buried in Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery. In addition to the VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His VC is held by the Household Cavalry Museum, Windsor, Berkshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: HOUSEHOLD CAVALRY MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: VILLERS-FAUCON COMMUNAL CEMETERY, THE SOMME, FRANCE.
ROW A GRAVE 21
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Holywood Memorial, Belfast.
Terry Hissey – Image of the VC Stone at MOD Building, London.