Rank or Title
Date of Birth
19 Jul 1880
Date of Death
27 Mar 1918
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
Soldier or Civilian
Second Lieutenant Collings-Wells was commissioned into the Bedfordshire Regiment on 14th March 1904 having previously served with the Hertfordshire Militia. He became a Lieutenant in September 1904 and Captain in January 1907. On the outbreak of war he was recalled to the colours and arrived in France with the Bedfordshire Regiment on the 22nd August 1914, where he served in the 2nd Battalion once they had arrived from South Africa. By October 1916 he was promoted to acting Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the 4th Battalion and remained at that post until his death.
At the Battle of Arras in April 1917, he won the Distinguished Service Order whilst commanding his Battalion and less than a year later he was posthumously awarded the vaunted and well earned Victoria Cross for what can only be described as incredible, unstinting valour in the face of extreme adversity. Ironically, as with many of life's heroes, he was killed shortly after the worst fighting and his body was unidentifiable, hence could not be appropriately honoured and buried. Fate or coincidence - whichever one you believe in the most - made his identification possible many years later, and Collings-Wells was finally given a proper burial.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross for the actions described in the citation below.
"His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to Capt. John Stanhope Collings-Wells, D.S.O., late Bedfordshire. Regiment For most conspicuous bravery, skilful leading and handling of his battalion in very critical situations during a withdrawal. When the rearguard was almost surrounded and in great danger of being captured, Collings-Wells, realising the situation, called for volunteers to remain behind and hold up the enemy whilst others escaped, and with his small body of volunteers held them up for one and a-half hours until they had expended every round of ammunition. During this time he moved freely amongst his men guiding and encouraging them, and by his great courage undoubtedly saved the situation.
Collings-Well’s Victoria Cross Citation
The London Gazette citation dated 24th April 1918
Further information can be found on the Bedfordshire Regiment website.