TWO of the bravest of the brave from Somerset won the Victoria Cross in the war.

Sgt John 'Jack' Collins, born in Bickenhall in 1877, won the military's top honour for his courageous efforts at the third Battle of Gaza, at Beersheba, on October 31, 1917.

Serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, he rushed with total disregard for his own safety, to rescue several wounded colleagues injured by heavy Turkish fire so they could receive medical treatment.

He then led a fixed bayonet charge against machine gun defences, singularly bayoneting 15 enemy during a nine-hour offensive on a day the British and its allies suffered 2,230 casualties.

Jack Collins's VC citation mentioned his "most conspicuous bravery, resource and leadership" in saving many lives and for leading the final assault "with the utmost skill in spite of heavy fire at close".

He was presented with his medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

He also received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the VC, for his actions at Foka and Hill 1750, Palestine, in November, where, with a company of 80 men, he took a village occupied by 600 Turkish troops, taking 300 prisoners.

Jack was one of 14 children of Thomas and Mary Ann Collins living in Bickenhall before the family moved to Merthyr Tydfil in 1889.

He saw action in the Boer War at the turn of the century with the Royal Horse Artillery before serving in India.

He married Mary Ellen O'Brien in 1910 and they had six sons and two daughters.

After his reserve service ended in 1913, he voluntarily enlisted in the newly formed Welsh Horse, later the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, fighting in Anzac Cove alongside Australian and New Zealand troops.

After the war, he found it hard to get a job, with many employers unwilling to offer a menial position to a VC holder, although he received several offers after a dinner with the Prince of Wales and finally worked as a security guard.

He died after a fall at home on September 3, 1951, aged 74.

Jack's valour was remembered at a service at St Andrew's Church, West Hatch, last October, after which a plaque was unveiled to his memory at the village hall.