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  • Christina Drummond

Lieutenant-Colonel John Stanhope Collings-Wells VC DSO, The Bedfordshire Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Lieutenant-Colonel John Stanhope Collings-Wells VC DSO, was killed in action during the fighting near Albert in France.

Educated at Uppingham School and Christ Church, Oxford, he had enlisted in the Hertfordshire Militia, and was commissioned into the Bedfordshire Regiment in March of 1904, being promoted to Captain in 1907. When the Great War broke out, he travelled to France with his Regiment on 22 August 1914. That winter he was wounded and invalided home, not being able to return to the front lines until the summer of 1916 with the rank of Major. In 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and also Mentioned in Despatches.

Lieutenant-Colonel Collings-Wells was awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions on more than one occasion. His citation reads: “For most conspicuous bravery, skilful leading and handling of his battalion in very critical situations during a withdrawal. When the rear guard was almost surrounded and in great danger of being captured, Lieutenant-Colonel Collings-Wells, realising the situation, called for volunteers to remain behind and hold up the enemy whilst the remainder of the rearguard withdrew and, with his small body of volunteers held them up for over one and a half hours until they had expended every round of ammunition. During this time he moved freely amongst his men, guiding them and encouraging them and, by his great courage, undoubtedly saved the situation. On a subsequent occasion, when his battalion was ordered to carry out a counter -attack, he showed the greatest bravery. Knowing that his men were extremely tired after six days fighting, he placed himself in front and led the attack and, even when twice wounded, refused to leave them, but continued to lead and encourage his men until he was killed at the moment of gaining their objective. The successful results of the operation were, without doubt, due to the undaunted courage exhibited by this officer.”

He is buried in the Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, and his Victoria Cross is displayed at the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regimental Collection at the Wardown Park Museum in Luton.

John, from Manchester, was 37 years old.

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