To Honour Our Heroes

3rd October 2018

The Society’s meeting of 3rd October was a double bill, telling two very different stories of travels to theatres of war where local soldiers lost their lives. Pat Pennington had a personal mission to follow in the footsteps of her late husband’s uncle, Private Michael Herbert Edmonds Colton who fell at Gallipoli, whilst Jerome Wright visited the graves and monuments commemorating the local men who were lost on the Western Front.

A Stretcher Bearer at the Doomed Campaign of Gallipoli

The name of Private Michael Herbert Edmonds Colton, stretcher bearer in July/August 1915 with the 1st Sherwood Rangers, can be seen on the Helles Memorial.  Pvt. Colton was 21 years old when he fell at Chocolate Hill.  He may have been particularly suited to caring for the injured due to his first- aid experience gained through his membership of the Scouting movement.

Pat explained that the gorse that covered Chocolate Hill (so called because the men couldn’t pronounce its Turkish name) was prone to catching fire in the bombardment, thus causing even greater distress and risk for fallen soldiers. Before he was killed Pvt. Colton brought 14 soldiers out of the blazing gorse.

Many of the fallen had no known graves, though whenever possible comrades would try to erect wooden crosses. Pat concluded her presentation with some reminders of the enormity of disaster which was the Gallipoli Campaign.  It is said that when the Anzac troops arrived at what would become known as Anzac Cove, the fire from the Turks on top of the hill was so intense that the sea ran red with blood. In the period July to December 1915 a 1/4 million allies soldiers died as did 1/4 million Turkish soldiers.

A Mission to the Western Front

Jerome Wright introduced his presentation by reflecting on his childhood interest in the First World War. That interest and later theatrical involvement commemorating the war eventually led to his decision to undertake these extensive tours across France and Belgium. His aim was to visit the memorials and graves of all the men whose names appear on our local war memorials.

He found 44  names in total with 32 remembered in France and Belgium. Cards were printed; each batch identifying the fallen soldier with his name, rank, regiment, age, date of death, and peace time occupation. His commitment was to visit each grave or memorial and leave a batch of the relevant cards (in a weather-proof box) with information in French and English about the project asking other visitors to: ‘Take a card and follow the link to find out more about the soldier who is remembered at this memorial and if possible, leave us a message with your thoughts from your visit’.

Jerome explained how he took two trips to complete the task; on the first one he travelled with his friend Edward Daykin when they managed to visit 15 sites. On his second visit, this time in the company of his partner Sandie, they found 11. There are also five more in the UK, one in Dublin and one in Gallipoli. More expeditions?

Thanks to Gusto Construction Ltd for their sponsorship of the cards.

These two presentations form part of the Society’s involvement and support of Collingham’s commemoration of the Armistice.