Back in the 1960s, the congregation at Draycott St Margaret’s put up a war memorial plaque in the church. It named the forces personnel of the parish who had died in both world wars.
See – the story of Draycott’s war memorial.
This is the story of Bede Vavasour.
Bede Vavasour wasn’t even twenty years old when he died in 1942, serving in the RAF Volunteer Reserve Squadron 12 (part of Bomber Command). He was the navigator on a training flight, part of preparation toward becoming a full bomber-crew member, when the plane he was on went out of control and crashed. He and three other airmen died in the incident.
He never even lived long enough to see active service.
His body was brought back to Draycott, where the family lived, and he was buried in the small graveyard at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Cresswell, where his official Commonwealth-War-Graves stone (right) is cared for to this day.
Bede came from Draycott’s leading family. The Vavasours were the most distinguished family in the district in the early twentieth century, owning land and wielding much influence.
In fact, the family could be traced back three centuries, to the Vavasour Baronetcy of Yorkshire; in 1848, Bede’s own grandfather, Oswald Hugh, was born at Hazelwood Castle, the family seat.
By a slightly complicated procedure, the Vavasours had merged, some years before Bede’s birth, with the Stourtons, who had been the main ‘gentry’ hereabouts in the 19th century, and thus the Vavasours had come to own lands in Draycott.
This is why Bede’s full name is Bede Joseph Stourton Vavasour.
The Vavasour family story took a twist when, by chance (?), the famous potter Bernard Moore came to live in Draycott in the 1890s. He and his family lived in great comfort in the twelve rooms at The Grange, the very large house which is still there on Cheadle Road.
Here, Bernard’s daughter Dorothy came across the Vavasours.
In 1915, Dorothy married Oswald Joseph Vavasour, who by then had settled in Canada, and there they had a child – Bede. The family returned to Draycott sometime in the next few years; they were definitely back in 1928.
They made a home for themselves at Draycott Cottage, not far from The Grange. Dorothy was still living there when she died in 1952 – though, by this time, the Vavasour money and influence had waned.
Bede’s father Oswald lived until 1973, in a house in Cresswell Old Road.
Bede’s brother, Hugh Bernard (right), who also served in the war, in the Royal Artillery, went on to work as sales director for Blythe Colours; he died in 1990.
We haven’t found out yet when Bede joined the RAF, but it’s likely he finished his education (at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire) before joining up – the RAF reserve did not accept recruits until they were aged 18.
The fatal flight took place on 12th June 1942.
The crew flew a Vickers Wellington out of Chipping Warden in Oxfordshire only for the plane’s wings to ice up. (Though it was summer, temperatures at high altitude can get to below freezing). The plane plummeted down over Chipping Norton – with no survivors.
Bede’s body was brought back to his home village.
The Vavasours were strong Catholics, which is why Bede is buried at St Mary’s RC Church in Cresswell.
Each year, Bede’s sacrifice is remembered at the church on Armistice Sunday, when the parish priest, accompanied by the congregation, carries out a ‘blessing of the grave’.
With thanks to Bill Pearson for researching the records
Can you add any more to this account? We’d be grateful for any knowledge anyone may have. Use the Comments-Box below or email us. Bede’s service number was 117114
For the stories of all the other service-people on the war memorial plaque in St Margaret’s, click here