TYNESIDE WAR HEROES #2

THE DAY I WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS

Joseph Henry Collin (1893-1918)

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for courage in the face of the enemy, that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In a series about Tyneside recipients of the VC, this story features Joseph Collin who was born in Jarrow, North East England on 11th April 1893.

My father Joseph was a rail worker, and my mother was called Mary. I lived at 12 Drury Street and was baptised at St Bede’s Church in Jarrow before I went to St Patrick’s School in Harraby, Carlisle. I  won prizes for running, I also loved playing football. Then I got a job in Leeds at the clothiers Hepworth & Son.

It was 1915 when I enlisted with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as a Private. I must have done good because during training they promoted me to Sergeant. Then in 1916, we went to France and fought in the Battle of the Somme. I took more training and returned to France in 1917 and served as a Second Lieutenant with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

We went to the front line at Givenchy. The Germans were pressing us hard with bombs and machine-gun fire. They were really close. We had to withdraw because we only had five men remaining, but still fought for every inch of ground. Then I went out and attacked their machine gun, firing my revolver first then threw a grenade putting the gun out of action. I killed four of their team and wounded two others. I saw another machine gun firing, so I took a gun and found a high vantage point, and kept them at bay until they wounded me.

Joseph died soon after from his injuries and was buried in Vielle-Chapelle Military Cemetery, Lacouture, France. His parents were presented with the Victoria Cross for Joseph’s bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice.

In 1956 the medal was presented to the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regimental Museum where it is displayed. In the chapel is a plaque which commemorates Joseph, and each year schools in Carlisle compete for the ‘Collin Shield’, a trophy for a 1 mile race presented in his memory by his family.

In 2008 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at South Shields Town Hall and in 2014 Carlisle City Council displayed a blue plaque commemorating Josephs heroic gallantry at the Battle of Givenchy. A memorial stone to honour the memory of World War One hero Joseph was laid in 2018 at Joseph Collin House in Jarrow.

Gary Alikivi  August 2020.

Sources: Ancestry, Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria Cross.