King Edward’s School and the Great War

Memorial Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918


Vince, William Lang

Acting Captain ▪ 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment

William Lang Vince, born on 24th March 1890, was admitted to King Edward’s School in January 1901. He was awarded Foundation Scholarships biennially throughout his School career. He was the younger of two sons, living with his father, Charles, Secretary of the Birmingham Liberal Unionist Association, his mother, Janet, and his brother, Charles, at 385, Gillott Road (and later at 8, Lyttleton Road), Edgbaston. Charles was also an Old Edwardian and Foundation Scholar, serving with the 3/6th Cyclists Battalion as a Second Lieutenant before being seconded to the War Office; he survived the war.

William was a prodigious talent. He was entirely deserving of winning four consecutive Foundation Scholarships, coming 1st in the First Class, many places ahead of JRR Tolkien and Christopher Wiseman. In his triumphant final year, William won the Governor’s Prizes for Latin Verse and Greek Prose, the Howell James Exhibition and the Dale Memorial Medal. He was also an actor, General Secretary of the School Club (overall administrator of Societies), a Sergeant in the Officer Training Corps, 1st XI Cricket, a member of the Debating Society, Sports Secretary, Editor of the Chronicle and, naturally, School Captain. To top off an exemplary career, he won a place at Magdalen College, Oxford, to read Classics. There he rowed bow in the successful second boat of his college in 1912, and in 1913 his boat won the Torpids race, being ‘Head of the River’.

William enlisted immediately upon the outbreak of war in August 1914, obtaining his commission as a Second Lieutenant with the 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His earlier application for a commission through the Oxford University Officers Training Corps had been unsuccessful because the Oxford doctor discovered a “trifling varicose vein”. On 3rd September 1916 at the Somme, then holding the rank of Acting Captain, William led 120 men over the top and returned with only 40 unhurt; he himself was wounded in the attack and he was invalided home with chronic colitis. After being sent to a training battalion on Salisbury Plains, he returned to France on 18th April 1917. On 8th May, William was talking with two officers in a trench when a 5.9 German shell “came in from the flank and killed all three instantaneously”. He was buried at Orchard Dump Cemetery, Arleux-en-Gohelle, and he left his estate of £370 to his father, Charles.

William’s father wrote a detailed account of his son’s military career in a letter to Magdalen College; the letter remains in the College archive with a digital copy being held in the King Edward’s School Archive.