VC winner will inspire cadets A NEW state-of-the-art gymnasium, named after a World War 1 hero, has been formally opened at Britannia Royal Naval College by England’s World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson.
The former rugby player was invited to BRNC to see the facility, which has been named after Lieutenant Commander Arthur Harrison VC.
Arthur Harrison, who was born in Torquay in 1886, lost his life during the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.
Captain Roger Readwin, Captain of BRNC, said: “Arthur Harrison was capped by England twice, winning the Grand Slam in 1914, and is believed to be the only England rugby union international ever to have received the VC.
“When we were looking to name our new gym, Arthur Harrison was a natural choice and we hope his story will go on to inspire our Officer Cadets and recruits.”
Martin Johnson said: “It is a real privilege to officially open BRNC’s new gymnasium. But to do so, in memory of a former England and Navy Rugby player, who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy our freedom today, is very poignant indeed.”
Warrant Officer Mac McCormick, BRNC’s Physical Development Officer, said: “This facility is a real game changer and will allow us to deliver 21st Century physical training to modern Royal Navy standards. ”
Lt Cdr Harrison’s first posting in the Royal Navy was to HMS Mars as a cadet in 1902. He went on to be Mentioned in Despatches during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Almost two years later he was in charge of the Naval Storming Parties at the Zeebrugge Raid; an attempt by the Royal Navy to block the Belgian port and stop the German U-boats taking to sea.
Early in the action Lt Cdr Harrison was knocked unconscious when a fragment of a shell struck his head and broke his jaw as his ship, HMS Vindictive, was coming alongside the stone structure, known as a mole.
Lt Cdr Harrison regained consciousness and took his place in command of his party. They were charged with the important task of silencing the guns on the mole head. In a fully exposed position Lt Cdr Harrison led the attack and was killed by enemy machine-gun fire at the age of 32. His body was never recovered. The men serving with him were either killed or wounded.
In 1967 his family donated his VC, awarded to him for his ‘indomitable resolution and courage’, to BRNC, where it remains today.
Lion Harrison, Arthur Leyland Lieutenant Commander