b. 01/02/1887 Burnley, Lancashire. d. 16/09/1962 Newtonabbey, Northern Ireland.
Hugh Colvin (1887-1962) was born at Rose Grove, Burnley, Lancashire on 1st February 1887. His father, also Hugh, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and was a master gardener. He married Jane Stables, a domestic servant, on 12th June 1884 at Crofts of Clova, Kildrummy, Aberdeenshire. They moved regularly, firstly in Scotland, then in Lancashire from 1889 onwards, Manchester after 1901 and finally County Antrim, Northern Ireland. They had four children: Margaret (born 1885), Mary (born 1889), then Hugh and finally Thomas (born 1893).
Hugh was educated at Hatherlow Day School, Romiley, Cheshire. He was keen on athletics, distance running and gymnastics, and following school, became a gardener in Lancaster and later moved to Belfast to live with his sister. He enlisted on 21st May 1908 in 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars. He served in England for a year and then went to India with the Regiment in 1909. He was at Campbell Barracks, near Lucknow in 1911 and then at Ambala until 16th October 1914. He was then sent to France with his Regiment as a Lance Corporal, landing at Marseilles on 11th November 1914. He was promoted to Lance Sergeant and was commissioned in the Cheshire Regiment on 13th April 1917 and attached to 9th Battalion.
He received a GOC’s commendation for patrol work near Messines on 15th-16th June 1917, and his party mopped up a series of concrete dugouts hidden in a hedge and returned with valuable information about the location of enemy posts. On 20th September 1917 east of Ypres, Belgium, when all the other officers of his company and all but one in the leading company had become casualties, Second Lieutenant Colvin took command of both companies and led them forward under heavy fire with great success. He went with only two men to a dug-out, when he left the men on top, entered it alone and brought out 14 prisoners. He then proceeded to clear other dug-outs, alone or with only one man, capturing machine-guns, killing some of the enemy and taking a large number of prisoners.
He received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 28th November 1917. He also received a civic reception at Chester on 3rd December and returned to France on the 7th. He became a company commander in March 1918 and was promoted to Lieutenant on 13th October. On 5th February 1919 he was appointed Supervisor of Physical and Bayonet Training, Army Gymnastic Staff and on 12th April was appointed Assistant Superintendent and Chief Instructor, School of Physical Training, Army of the Rhine. He held the latter appointment until 24th October 1919 as a Temporary Major.
While gardening after the war, he almost cut off his nose with a scythe. He pushed it back into place before going for medical assistance. It healed, only leaving a slight ridge at the tip. He married Lilian Elsie Croudson at Christ Church, Blackpool on 29th December 1920. They lived in Bispham, Blackpool at the beginning of their marriage and had a daughter, Marjorie Jean Marcie Colvin, born in 1923.
Hugh transferred to the 1st Battalion in India, where he escaped serious injury when a lorry overturned and fell 25 metres down a hillside. He was promoted to Captain in October 1927 and retired on Half Pay on 1st February 1935. However, he was not out of uniform for long. He became a Recruiting Officer for North-Western Division in Chester and Preston as a local Major with effect from 1st June 1938, working under Lt Colonel Harry Daniels VC. He retired again in 1947 and returned to Northern Ireland.
Hugh died at Bangor Hospital, County Down, Northern Ireland on 16th September 1962 and was buried in Carnmoney Cemetery, Newtonabbey, Bangor, Northern Ireland. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The VC is held by the Soldiers of Cheshire, Cheshire Military Museum, Chester.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CHESHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, CHESTER.
BURIAL PLACE: CARNMONEY CEMETERY, NEWTONABBEY, CO ANTRIM, NI.
Andrew Mackay – VC Stone in Burnley, Lancashire.