Dame Judi Dench supports campaign to remember VC winner

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Dame Judi Dench is supporting a plan to erect a statue in memory of a World War I Victoria Cross recipient.

Private Herbert Columbine, 24, was a private in the Machine Gun Corps and was awarded the decoration posthumously for his actions at Hervilly Wood on 22 March 1918, the second day of Operation Michael – the German spring offensive.

Columbine helped to hold back the German advance in the area for several hours, allowing other troops to retreat.

The Columbine Statue Fund hopes to raise £60,000 to erect a life-size statue of the soldier and Dame Judi has donated a signed photograph to be auctioned.

Private Columbine, of 9 Squadron Machine Gun Corps, was born in Penge and is commemorated on the Pozieres memorial to the missing. He had previously served with the 19th Royal Hussars.

His VC citation reads: ‘For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice displayed, when, owing to casualties, Pte Columbine took over command of a gun and kept it firing from 9am till 1pm in an isolated position with no wire in front.

‘During this time wave after wave of the enemy failed to get up to him. Owing to his being attacked by a low-flying aeroplane the enemy at last gained a strong footing in the trench on either side. The position being untenable he ordered the two remaining men to get away, and, though being bombed from either side, kept his gun firing and inflicting tremendous losses.

‘He was eventually killed by a bomb which blew up him and his gun. He showed throughout the highest valour, determination and self-sacrifice.’

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