Leicester

War hero family's anger over school's Victoria Cross sale bid

  • 24 February 2016
  • From the section Leicester
Lieutenant Colonel Philip Bent Image copyright Leicester Mercury
Image caption Lt Col Bent was killed in action in Belgium in October 1917 leading a charge on the battlefield

The family of a World War One soldier decorated for bravery say they may take legal action against a school that is planning to sell his Victoria Cross to fund a sports pavilion.

Ashby School was given ex-pupil Lt Col Philip Bent's medal by his mother in 1923 to "serve as a lasting stimulant".

The school said a pavilion would be a "fitting way to honour this sentiment".

But relative Keith Willis said it did not have the right to sell the VC, Britain's highest military honour.

Lt Col Bent, who served in the 9th Battalion of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment, was killed in action in Belgium in October 1917, aged 26.

The VC and four other medals awarded to Lt Col Bent were donated to the school, formerly Ashby Boys' Grammar.

In a letter to the school in 1923, Mrs Bent wrote: "I'm hoping that they will serve as a lasting stimulant to high ideals to following generations."

Lt Col Philip Bent

Image copyright Ashby Museum
  • Philip Bent was born in Halifax, Canada, in 1891 and was shot in the head during his WW1 service in 1917
  • He studied at Ashby Boys' Grammar School in Leicestershire between 1904 and 1907
  • At the time of his death Lt Col Bent was the youngest officer to ever reach the rank
  • According to his Victoria Cross citation, he was killed while leading a charge, which he inspired with the call of "Come on the Tigers"
  • The Royal Leicestershire Regiment is known as the Tigers

Lt Col Bent's great-nephew, Mr Willis, 54, from Lymington, Hampshire, said he was "outraged and disappointed" by the school's plans to sell the five medals, which could fetch up to £250,000.

"My great-grandmother put the medals in the school's care as a lasting monument to him," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't own them.

"The school needs to prove ownership of the medals and I will seek legal action to gain ownership, if I need to, and stop them."

The school's head teacher Eddie Green said: "The bottom line is the medal has been for 44 years hidden in a vault and hasn't actually contributed a great deal.

"We want to make sure the proceeds from the medal contribute an enormous amount to the future generations of this area and... by selling it we can find a wonderful tribute to Philip Bent."

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