Killed in Action
Regiment: Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry)
Service Number: 100250
Date of Death: 4th April 1918
Age when killed: 24
Cemetery: Villers – Bretonneux Military Cemetery (VB)
Parents: William & Jane Coleman
Victor Coleman was the son of William Coleman, a farm labourer, and his wife Jane. He was born in Hoby in October 1893. By 1911 he was still living in the village with his parents and working as a cowman on one of the local farms. His address was The Bank, Hoby, on what we now call Back Lane.
The service records of the men who served in the Machine Gun Corps have been destroyed. However, his medal card still exists and confirms that he initially joined the Leicestershire Yeomanry, with the service number 3339. This was a cavalry regiment, the members of which were notable for their distinctive leather bandolier, with its prominent ammunition pouches, worn across the chest from above the left shoulder to below the right arm.
He was almost certainly already a machine gunner when it was decided to create a Machine Gun Corps by removing the machine gun sections from individual units and replacing them with specialist teams at Brigade level. Since the Leicestershire Yeomanry was then part of the 7th Cavalry Brigade its machine gunners joined that Brigade’s new Machine Gun Squadron on 29th February 1916. This new Squadron will have had sixteen Vickers machine guns at its disposal, leaving the Leicestershire Yeomanry and other regiments with the lighter Lewis machine gun.
One of the reasons for creating the new Corps was the high casualty rate among machine gunners and the constant need to train large numbers of replacements. Machine gunners operated in forward positions, often providing the infantry with a first line of defence. They inevitably attracted enemy fire and more than a third of the new Corps members were to become casualties, earning it the nickname the “suicide club”.
Victor Coleman’s death was almost certainly a consequence of his part in the successful allied resistance to the German Spring Offensive of March/April 1918 in which the Germans pushed on towards Amiens in the hope of gaining control of that strategically vital communications centre. The area around the town of Villers-Bretonneux, to the east of Amiens, was the scene of a fierce defensive action by British and Australian forces on 4th April 1918. It is now the location of an Australian War Memorial as well as the cemetery where Victor Coleman is buried.
He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His older brother, Percy, served in the Royal Field Artillery during the War and his younger brother, Leonard, in the Leicestershire Yeomanry and Labour Corps. Both of them survived the War. Victor’s parents and younger sisters, Edith and Ivy, are also thought to have survived him.