The first member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to be killed in the First World War has been honoured with a portrait at the college’s offices in London, 100 years after his death.

The portrait of Lieutenant Vincent Fox, who was from Dundalk, County Louth and was an alumnus of the then Royal Veterinary College in Dublin, was presented by his great-grand-nephew, James Tierney, and received by RCVS registrar Gordon Hockey.

Lt Fox, a member of the Army Veterinary Corps (AVC), was killed in action by a shell on August 26, 1914 during the Battle of Le Cateau in northern France in which British and French forces fought to impede a German advance.

He is now buried in the nearby Commonwealth war graves cemetery at Caudry.

Veterinary surgeon Paul Watkins, a keen military historian, conducted the research into Lt Fox, his career and his deeds in the First World War, with the help of his family.

He said: “The family story was he had been found dead in a church with no mark or scars on him and, in fact, this turned out to be true.

“The church where he died was in the village of Audencourt in northern France, where a dressing station had been set up for the wounded. The key issue was, in the absence of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Lt Fox was ordered to take charge of the medical treatment of the men using his skills as a veterinary surgeon.

“I’m sure he did his very best under such extreme circumstances, but he would have been very ill-equipped.”

Talking more generally about the role of the AVC during the First World War, Dr Watkins added: “The AVC made very significant contributions to the war effort because there were so many horses and mules deployed. They would have been responsible for a range of tasks, from husbandry – and educating other soldiers on husbandry – to the treatment of injured animals.”

In total, 67 veterinary surgeons are believed to have been killed in the First World War. Of these, 34 died from disease, 24 died as a result of wounds and 9 were killed in action.

On presenting the portrait, which was drawn by artist Dave Gleeson and based on a photograph of Lt Fox, Mr Tierney, from Dublin said: “I am very pleased the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has accepted this portrait as future generations of vets will be able to see it here and learn about my great-grand-uncle’s story.

“He has become my hero because he died while trying to save human lives and, for me, that’s a huge source of pride.

“While his story is very interesting, however, it’s not just about him. There are 66 other names on the RCVS First World War memorial and they all have a story to tell.”

Mr Hockey said the college was very pleased to receive the portrait in recognition of the sacrifice Lt Fox made.

“The fact he died while tending to his wounded fellow soldiers demonstrates the caring nature of the profession and the wider contribution to society made by veterinary surgeons,” he said.

“In this centenary year I would also like to commend the contribution made by members of the profession as a whole during the war.”

Throughout the centenary the RCVS Knowledge library blog – written by Clare Boulton, head of library and information services – will be updated with stories about the conduct of veterinary surgeons in the First World War. Visit to see the updates.

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