Herbert Columbine VC


The statue before unveilingThe statue to Herbert Columbine VC was unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Guthrie on Friday August 1st 2014 on the seafront on Walton on the Naze. In attendance was:  the Bishop of Chelmsford who Dedicated the statue. The Royal Signals band were there as were The Light Dragoons, Lord Peter and the High Sherif of Essex. It was a beautiful day and a lovely ceremony.Light Dragoons edField Marshal Lord Guthrie






Columbine Statue Fund

The project to raise a statue in memory of Private Herbert Columbine VC is also in recognition of his mother, Emma Columbine, who presented her late son’s medals, including the  Victoria Cross, to the town of Walton in October 1921.  She also donated medals won by her late husband who was killed in the Boer War. These medals were to be displayed for the people of Walton in the council chamber. After the amalgamation of the districts of Walton and Frinton in 1934 the council resolved that the medals should be handed to the British Legion to be displayed in their Club. Due to their increasing commercial value the medals were later deposited in a bank vault and only replicas were displayed in the British Legion Club. The original Victoria Cross and other medals had not been on view to the general public since 1934 but are now on display in the Essex Regiment Museum in Chelmsford Essex.

‘We hope a statue that can be viewed by the community of Walton on the  Naze and visitors to the town will be a fitting tribute to Walton’s WW1 hero. We will hopefully have the statue erected by the centennial anniversary of the First World War in 1914.’ Michael Turner.


Available NOW published by Pen & Sword, all author royalties donated to the Columbine Statue Fund

‘Save Yourselves, I’ll carry on’. These were the last known words of Herbert Columbine, shouted at his two companions on the afternoon of 22nd March 1918. At 9am that morning, in Hervilly Woods, France, 9 Squadron Machine Gun Corps had come under intense attack from a heavy force of German infantry. Private Columbine took command of an isolated gun, with no wire in front and began firing. As the German onslaught grew and casualties mounted, Herbert and two others eventually became separated from the rest of their Squadron. After several hours it became clear their position would soon be overrun so Herbert told them to escape while they could. Now on his own, Herbert hung on tenaciously, repelling several attacks, each one deadlier than the last. He was only defeated after the Germans bought up air support and dropped a bomb on his position. Herbert Columbine has no known grave. His death is commemorated on Panels 93 and 94 at the Pozieres Memorial to those missing in the Somme Sector 1918.

I feel very honoured to write a book about such a brave man as my contribution to this very worthwhile project. If you would like to listen to a radio interview about Hebert Columbine VC click here

Reviews for Herbert Columbine VC

The obvious entry point for gaining an understanding of a conflict such as the First World War is some sort of reference or profile of an individual soldier. This is a great example of just such a biographical account. The research is sound and well presented and the narrative easy to follow and linked with facts, maps and photographs.
Major Mike Peters AAC, Soldier Magazine

Well Carole certainly knows her subject, so much so that I firmly believe that this book will become the template for the other war books which will be published in the future. It is not a gung-ho ‘Share this amongst you Fritz’ type of book nor is it a ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ story. What it is, in my opinion, is a “who do you think you are” study as we obtain information of Herbert’s family who originally came from North London. His fathers’ life and death in the Boer War and his mothers strain being at the home front with food and news shortages. We are even told what the weather was like rain soaking through Puttees and through boots, frosts that turned greatcoats in to stiff sheets of ply but the upside was that the freezing conditions removed the smell of the rotten corpses that pervaded everything in the forward trenches.

We learn how the gun crews had to keep the ammunition belts dry at all costs because wet belts jammed in the guns, as did muddy one of course. Carole worked out that a .303 round for the Vickers Machine Gun weighed approximately one ounce. The maximum rate of fire was 600rpm which meant it could fire 33lbs of ammunition per minute. The normal rate of fire for the Vickers was around 250 rpm or one belt a minute, this meant the 6 guns of a Machine Gun Corps section could fire five tons of ammo per hour! All this had to be hand delivered to the forward lines after being dropped of at the supply depots about a mile or so in the rear.

We are given details of low stocks of ammunition, the number of days lost in strikes etc, not in a cold book keeping way but in a detailed fly on the wall style. However for me the most poignant part of the book was Carol’s interpretation of how Herbert’s mother must have felt when she received the death notice telegram and letters from his unit. Not so much a war story more the family history of a War, a Battle, a Corps and Unit. I heartily recommend this ground breaking book. Army Rumour Service 

I have added this title to my collection of VC books.
The book is factually very good and follows his life and times, ending with the eventual award of the VC. Amazon 5* review

After finding `The Weekend Trippers’ (the true story of Rifleman Ted Taylor) so fascinating, I was keen to read Carole McEntee-Taylor’s latest military history book. `Herbert Columbine VC’ (published by Pen & Sword) tells the remarkable story of a young soldier, Herbert (Bertie), who chooses to follow the footsteps of his late father (also named Herbert) by sacrificing his life for his country.

With an impressive foreword by Dame Judi Dench, my expectations were naturally high when opening this hardback book and the rest of the book did not disappoint me. Pieced together by the author’s own extensive research, this moving story begins with six-year-old Bertie, coming to terms with the death of his father while fighting in the Boer War. Bertie admires his father’s heroism and longs for such an adventure, so he secretly resolves to join the army himself when he is older.

At the age of twelve, Bertie and his mother, Emma, move from London to the small seaside town of Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, where their lives are practically idyllic, until Bertie reaches seventeen and signs up. Bertie moves to Aldershot with the 19th Hussers, leaving Emma fearful for her son’s safety and worried that she will lose him in the same way as her husband. As the Great War breaks out, Emma can only remain at home uneasy and anxiously waiting for news.

After they are parted, the narrative flits seamlessly between Emma and Bertie’s stories, interwoven with historical information about the politics of the war and life on the frontline. Although Emma is in a secure financial position, thanks to her family’s furniture business, McEntee-Taylor describes the war’s effect on less fortunate families with regard to rationing, food shortages, poor housing and other living conditions. The interesting photographs and various items of secondary research (including images of official documents, newspaper clippings and letters) throughout the book also give an authentic feel to this real life account.

Bertie survives for over four years while fighting for his country, living through several battles and deadly gas attacks. He refuses to go down without a fight and dies a hero, in the true sense of the word. Despite being in an isolated and dangerous position in the trenches, he alone stands strong against intense German bombardment for over four hours, preventing the enemy from advancing further, and thus delaying their attack. He is awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award gained in any war, in recognition of his brave and heroic deed.

The motif of history repeating itself culminates as Emma relives the horror of losing her husband when she receives the ominous letter confirming her worst fears. McEntee-Taylor skilfully conveys the heartache of this mother who has lived solely for her beloved son and how she struggles to cope after his life has ended. However, the tone lifts at the end of the book and the mood is one of celebration as Emma attends a ceremony in Walton, in which a memorial is unveiled in honour of Bertie’s heroic stand. Today Bertie’s memorial bust stands in the Walton Leisure Centre which is named after him. Catherine Ridge


Dame Judi Dench is the Patron of the Columbine Statue Fund and has written a Foreword to the book


MichaelMonday 4th November 2013. It is with deep regret and sadness that I have to report the sudden death of Michael Turner, founder and driving force behind the Columbine Statue Fund. Without Michael’s dedication and tenacity there would never have been a statue to Herbert. It is very cruel that he will not be there at the unveiling ceremony on the seafront 2nd August 2014. RIP Michael. You will be very much missed but never forgotten.

The fund is still open as not all the money has yet been raised. If you would like to donate money to the fund please make cheques payable to The Columbine Statue Fund and send to 100 Butcher’s Lane Walton on the Naze Essex CO14 8UD. You can read a tribute to Michael in the local paper here

The Columbine Statue Fund shop in Walton on the Naze – raising money for the statue.


The statue is beginning to take shape! Saturday 3rd August 2013 with sculptor John Doubleday

23rd November.

On the left – John with the statue

On the right –  Will Columbine, Herbert’s great great nephew







The picture of Herbert in the book is courtesy of Pete Frost  – for more pictures of Old Walton why not take a look at http://www.putmans.co.uk/oldwaltonindex.htm