WW1 Alumni

Branson, VC

Victor Cecil Branson

2nd Lieutenant, Royal Engineers/Royal Sussex Regiment

Age 15, Class Matriculation: 'Distinctly good powers - much improved in every way. Will do well.'

Victor Cecil Branson was 19 years old when signed up to the British Expeditionary Force in August 1915. He lived in Woodware Road, Dulwich with parents, Gale and Ada, and attended Alleyn’s until 1914. He had a sister and an older brother, Gale, who also attended Alleyn’s. Victor trained as a chemist before he deciding to enlist in the Army in August 1915. Victor’s background in chemistry saw him assigned to the Chemical Section of the Royal Engineers, a newly established Special Company of the Corps that was invented to address the use of chemical weapons by enemy forces. Along with all the men that joined the company, Victor was given the rank of Chemist Corporal after joining. In 1915, he served with First Army on the Western Front where his main role was to ensure the safe release of poison gas during battle. This saw Victor play an important role in the Battle of the Loos in September 1915 and the Battle of the Somme in 1916 where gas was used in both offensives to provide an advantage to the attacking British infantry. After serving with the RE in 1915-16, Victor transferred to the Royal Sussex Regiment after being offered a temporary commission as 2nd Lieutenant. After receiving training, he joined 13th Battalion on 1st March 1917 and took charge of around 50 men. Victor served with 13th Battalion on the Western Front until the spring of 1918 when the battalion was withdrawn from the front after suffering extremely heavy losses in the German Spring Offensive. The battalion was eventually disbanded in August 1918 and the remaining men of the battalion were posted to 1/4 Battalion, Royal Sussex. Victor joined the new battalion as they moved towards Flanders during the final 100 days of the war. On 22nd August 1918, his actions earned him a Military Cross when he pushed forward in pursuit of the enemy and established an important post near Becordel Becourt with only a small party of men. Victor continued to serve with the Royal Sussex Regiment until the end of the war. He returned to England and later moved to Hong Kong in 1925 where he found work as a government chemist. When the Second World War broke out, he once again showed his devotion to duty when he raised the No. 4 (Chinese) Company of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force. He served as Captain with the company for the duration of the war and was awarded an MBE for his contribution to military services in January 1941. For his service in the First World War he was awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medal.