John Collins (VC)

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John Collins
VCJohnCollinsGrave.jpg
John Collins grave, Pant Cemetery
Born (1880-09-10)10 September 1880
West Hatch, Somerset
Died 3 September 1951(1951-09-03) (aged 70)
Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan
Buried at Pant Cemetery, Merthyr Tydfil
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Rank Sergeant
Unit Royal Welch Fusiliers
Battles/wars

Second Boer War
First World War

Awards Victoria Cross
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Mentioned in Despatches

John Collins VC, DCM (Irish: Seán Ó Coileáin; 10 September 1880 – 3 September 1951) was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born in West Hatch, Somerset, his family moved to Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, when he was 10 years old.[1]

He enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery in 1895 and served in South Africa during the Boer War and was one of the first troops to enter Ladysmith with the relief column.[2] He also saw service in India. Although his war records were destroyed during the London Blitz of 1940, it is likely that he left the Army in 1907, when he worked as a collier at the Bedlinog Colliery.

He enlisted in the newly formed Welsh Horse Yeomanry in 1915 and the regiment was sent to Gallipoli (it had been converted to an infantry regiment) and carried out mining and sapping duties in the area around Hill 60. They were evacuated to Egypt as part of the last British troops to leave the peninsula. The Welsh Horse provided part of the garrison in the Libyan desert until January 1917, when they were merged with the 1/1 Montgomeryshire Yeomanry and then formed the 25th Battalion, The Royal Welch Fusiliers, British Army.[3][4] During the last week of October, the 25 RWF were positioned on the right of the 74 Division, in the centre of the line where, along with 24 RWF they were to be the brigade's two attacking battalions. At this time, Collins was 37 years old, and an acting corporal when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.[5]

On 31 October 1917, during the Battle of Beersheba at Wadi Saba, Beersheba, Palestine, when, after deployment, prior to an attack, his battalion was forced to lie out in the open under heavy shell and machine-gun fire which caused many casualties. Corporal Collins repeatedly went out under heavy fire and brought back many wounded to cover, thus saving many lives. In subsequent operations throughout the day, he was conspicuous in rallying and leading his command. He led the final assault with the utmost skill in spite of heavy fire at close range and uncut wire. He bayoneted 15 of the enemy and with a Lewis gun section, pressed on beyond the objective and covered the reorganization and consolidation most effectively although isolated and under fire from snipers and guns.[6][7][8]

He later achieved the rank of sergeant.

He was decorated with the Victoria Cross by HM King George V at Buckingham Palace on 1 June 1918. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, Wales,[9] where there is a plaque in the entrance to his memory.[10] A painting of Collins by G Ethridge is on display at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Art Gallery.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Heritage Plaques — People". Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Regeneration Trust. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Creagh, O'Moore. "The VC and DSO — Volume I". Standard Art Book Co. p. 276. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Sergeant John COLLINS". Victoria Cross Society. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Victoria Crosses are held by the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum". The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Royal Welsh Fusiliers Victoria Crosses". Medals of the Regiments:. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Evans, Roger (2004). Somerset's Forgotten Heroes. Dovecote Press. p. 51. ISBN 1904349323. 
  7. ^ "John Collins". Find a Grave. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "No. 30433". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 December 1917. p. 13223. 
  9. ^ Stewart, Iain. "Grave Locations for Holders of the Victoria Cross in Wales". Victoria Cross UK. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  10. ^ "Sgt J Collins VC DCM MM". War Memorials Archive. Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 27 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Acting Quartermaster Sergeant John Collins (1880–1951), VC". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 27 April 2014.