- Name: Hugh COLVIN
- D.O.B: 1st Feb, 1887
- D.O.A: 20th Sep, 1917
- D.O.D: 16th Sep, 1962
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Second Lieutenant, 9th Battalion The Cheshire Regiment, 58th Brigade, 19th Division
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
The Menin Road Ridge, Belgium 20-22 September 1917
20-22 September 1917
The First World War 1917
On 20 September 1917, the second phase of the Third Battle of Ypres began. In what is known as the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, the British Second and Fifth Armies were able to capture the main ridge east of Ypres before the weather deteriorated. Fifth Army attacked along a line running south from the Ypres to Staden railway, east of Langemark, to a position west of Zonnebeke, south of the Ypres to Roulers railway. The 2/8th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (The Post Office Rifles, The Rifle Brigade), advanced near Kerselaere, south-east of Langemark and north-east of St Julien. Sergeant A J Knight distinguished himself in the fighting around Hubner Farm, a German stronghold to the east of Keerselare. Over two miles to the south 2nd Battalion The South African Light Infantry was north of the Ypres to Roulers road and 12th Battalion The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) was south of it. In the heavy fighting between Frezenberg and Zonnebeke that resulted, Lance Corporal W H Hewitt, 2nd South African Light Infantry, gallantly captured a German pillbox, while Temporary Captain H Reynolds, 12th Battalion The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), led the assault on another in front of Potsdam Farm. South of the Ypres to Roulers railway the proposed advance across the Gheluvelt plateau devolved on Second Army. At the north of the Second Army line, 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions advanced due east of Ypres. During the fighting in Glencourse Wood, which lay north of the Ypres-Menin road and north-west of Gheluvelt, Second Lieutenant F Birks captured two German pillboxes, while Private R R Inwood distinguished himself in the action in Polygon Wood, which lay to the east of Glencourse Wood and about midway between Zonnebeke and Gheluvelt. Meanwhile, south of the Menin Road, after an earlier assault by other regiments had failed, at 6pm 15th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment was ordered to take Tower Trench, a German strongpoint on a ridge just west of Gheluvelt. (Because of the pillboxes surrounding it, the area was nicknamed Tower Hamlets.) Second Lieutenant M S S Moore led the assault and reached the position, where he held out for thirty-six hours, before withdrawing with his surviving men. About a mile to the south-west, 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade and 16th and 17th Battalions The Sherwood Foresters were detailed to attack the German line near Bulgar Wood, east of Zillebeke. In the course of the fighting Sergeant W F Burman, 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade, having already destroyed one German position, together with Sergeant Major H W Bean, attacked another position that was firing on 16th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters. Bean was awarded a DCM for his role in the action. Corporal E A Egerton of The Sherwood Foresters, whose elder brother William had been killed in action on 17 August, distinguished himself by single-handedly capturing a German stronghold known as Welbeck Grange. Further south still, 9th Battalion The Cheshire Regiment advanced south-east of Zillebeke. Second Lieutenant H Colvin captured one German dugout and then in Hessian Wood attacked another, which was impeding the progress of 9th Battalion The Welsh Regiment.
For most conspicuous bravery in attack. When all the officers of his company except himself – and all but one in the leading company – had become casualties and losses were heavy, he assumed command of both companies and led them forward under heavy machine gun fire with great dash and success. He saw the battalion on his right held up by machine gun fire, and led a platoon to their assistance. 2nd Lt. Colvin then went on with only two men to a dug-out. Leaving the men on top, he entered it alone and brought up fourteen prisoners. He then proceeded with his two men to another dug-out which had been holding up the attack by rifle and machine gun fire and bombs. This he reached and, killing or making prisoners of the crew, captured the machine gun. Being then attacked from another dug-out by fifteen of the enemy under an officer, one of his men was killed and the other wounded. Seizing a rifle he shot five of the enemy, and, using another as a shield, he forced most of the survivors to surrender. This officer cleared several other dug-outs alone or with one man, taking about fifty prisoners in all. Later, he consolidated his position with great skill, and personally wired his front under heavy close range sniping in broad daylight, when all others had failed to do so. The complete success of the attack in this part of the line was mainly due to 2nd Lt. Colvin’s leadership and courage.