b. 28/11/1893 Penge, London. d. 22/03/1918 Hervilly, France.
Herbert George Columbine (1893-1918) was born in Penge, South London on 28th November 1893, the son of Herbert and Emma Columbine (nee Royal). He came from a military family and his father was killed in action during the Boer War on 11th July 1900 when Herbert junior was just six years old. The family home was in Crescent Road, Walton on the Naze, Essex, but after Herbert’s death she took the family back to London. Herbert was educated at Melvin Road Council School in Penge. After school he enlisted with the 19th Royal Hussars in 1911 and was allocated the service number 50720. He later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry).
In 1915, the regiment became part of the 9th Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division and the machine gun detachment became the 9th Squadron Machine Guns Corps.
On 22nd March 1918 at Hervilly Wood, France, Private Columbine took over command of a gun and kept firing it from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in an isolated position with no wire in front. During this time wave after wave of the enemy failed to get up to him, but at last with the help of a low-flying aircraft the enemy managed to gain a strong foothold in the trench. As the position was now untenable, Private Columbine told the two remaining men to get away, and although he was being bombed on either side, he kept his gun firing, inflicting losses, until he was killed by a bomb which blew him up along with his gun. His last known words were “Save Yourselves, I’ll carry on”, shouted to his two comrades.
His body was not recovered and he was commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, The Somme. As he never married, his mother, Emma, was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 22nd June 1918, exactly three months after his posthumous action. She declined to accept his Army Pension which she was entitled to and the people of Walton on the Naze set up a street collection for her and raised £312 9s 2d which was exchanged for War Bonds. Her son’s medal was subsequently presented to Walton on the Naze District Council, Essex, who in turn handed it over to the local British Legion, who still own it. At this time it was kept in a bank vault. The medal has been on loan to the Essex Regimental Museum, Chelmsford since 2013.
The Columbine Statue Fund was set up under the patronage of Dame Judi Dench to raise money for a statue to Columbine in Walton on the Naze. The statue, sculpted by John Doubleday, was erected on 1st August 2014 on the seafront at Walton on the Naze. The Columbine Centre, a leisure and community centre in Walton-on-the-Naze, is named after him.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ON LOAN TO ESSEX REGIMENTAL MUSEUM, CHELMSFORD.
BURIAL PLACE: ON POZIERES MEMORIAL, THE SOMME, FRANCE. PANEL 93-94
Herbert Columbine Memorial at Walton on the Naze, Essex (unveiled in Aug 2014).
Statue in Walton on the Naze, Essex.
Medals at Essex Regiment Museum (Steven Baker)