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Harrison Colwell (1890-1967)


Easington Lane miner served with 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment won DCM


Heroic Action at the Horse Shoe Trench

On 6 July 1916 orders were given that the 8th and 9th Green Howard Battalions of the Yorkshire Regiment were to enter the ongoing battle for the Horseshoe trench to the south East of La Boiselle, the Somme, Picardie, Northern France.

Just after 6 pm Horse Shoe trench was taken but a hostile German machine gun remained and took to fire upon the ensuing attack causing risk to life and casualty. Second Lieutenant Donald Bell of the 9th Regiment (Alexander Princess of Wales Own) on his own initiative crept up a nearby communication trench closely followed by Corporal Harrison Colwell and Private Batey.

When in position they rushed across open ground under very heavy fire and attacked the machine gun post, destroying it and its occupants with revolver fire and Mills bombs. Throwing further bombs into a nearby enemy trench they killed over 50 of its occupants. Their valiant act ensured the safety of ensuing soldiers and saved many lives, fulfilling the objective of the initial order to take Horseshoe trench.

Second Lieutenant Bell was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery but sadly died a few days later at the struggle for Contalmaison, unaware of his decoration. Corporal Harrison Colwell was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and Private Batey similarly for their valiant conduct in supporting him. Both survived the war.

Harrison Colwell sustained a gunshot wound to his left lower leg during the counter attack against the enemy on the Mametz Road, Contalmaison four days later, on 10 July 1916. He was brought home aboard HMHS Asturias from the port of Rouen and dispatched to Bradford Military Hospital for treatment. He was in Bradford from 15 July until 11 August and then was given 10 days’ furlough. On his return Harrison was transfered to the reserve 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment at West Hartlepool. He was ranked sergeant and on being discharged, returned to work at Elemore Colliery.

On his death in 1967 the, Sunderland Echo reported that he had received a certificate for 50 years or more service at the colliery, only broken by his war service as a Sergeant Physical Training Instructor during the First World War in which he was awarded the DCM believed to be the only person with such distinction in the area.

Citaction for DCM:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion. An officer observing that an enemy machine-gun was holding up a company during an attack, Lance-Corporal Colwill crept out, with the officer and another man, under heavy fire and over open ground, and put the gun and team out of action, thus saving the situation.

Civil Parish: Hetton le Hole

Birth date: 08-Mar-1890

Death date: 1967

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Lyon’s Lane, Easington Lane (1891 census)
Water Side Terrace, Cowpen, Northumberland (1901 census)
6 Stone Terrace, Easington Lane (1911 census)
125 Brickgarth, Easington Lane (1914, army service record)
Tamar Street, Easington Lane (1939 census)

Employment: Coal miner, putter (1911 census)

Family: Parents: William Colwell, Margaret Colwell
Siblings: William Colwell, George Colwell, Mary Ann Colwell, Noah Colwell, Elizabeth Ellen Colwell (1891 census)
Wife: Isobel Colwell (1939 register) nee Hope
Son: Robert Hope (born 1913)

Military service:

Attested: 14 November 1914 at Houghton-le-Spring
9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment
Regimental number: 15958
Disembarked France: 26 August 1915
Appointed unpaid lance corporal: 28 June 1916
Transferred to 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment
Appointed corporal: 25 September 1916
Appointed paid acting sergeant: 1 Novemeber 1918
Promoted: sergeant (physical training)
Discharged: 6 December 1918

Medal(s): Distinguished Conduct Medal (London Gazette, 22 September 1916)
1914/15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by Joma, England

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