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High price for former Swansea star's rare honour

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: April 15, 2014

  • Former Swansea Town captain James Collins who was awarded a gold Albert Medal.

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A RARE medal awarded to a Swansea football legend, who risked his life in the First World War to save two colleagues, is set to fetch between £5,000 and £7,000 at an auction.

The gold Albert Medal was personally presented to James Collins by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

Collins, who was a Lance Corporal with the Royal Army Medical Corps, was awarded the medal for putting his foot on a grenade thrown in a trench — saving the lives of two soldiers.

But his brave actions came at a huge personal cost.

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He suffered extensive injuries and was so riddled with shrapnel doctors told him his only hope of survival was amputation.

But he refused and after 14 operations over a two year period, and with shrapnel still in his toes and ankles, he joined what was then Swansea Town.

Amazingly he went on to play for the Swans for 15 years, during which time he captained their Third Division South championship-winning team of 1924-1925.

The following season he led the Swans to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, the first time the club had reached that round in the competition.

During his time in the city he lived on Mansel Terrace but after retiring from football returned to live in Lochee in Scotland where he was born.

He died there on September 20, 1963, at the age of 67.

Only 70 gold Albert Medals were awarded between their introduction in March 1866 and 1971, when the medal was replaced by the George Cross.

According to the citation, Collins, was awarded the medal "in recognition of his gallant action in saving life in France."

It further added Collins could easily have got out of the way but ran the "gravest risk" of losing his life by covering the grenade with his foot in order to save others.

The medal will be auctioned off at Spink in Bloomsbury, London, next Thursday.

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  • Jiffy  |  April 15 2014, 1:02PM

    Sergeant Michael Healy, an Irishman who lived in Pontardawe, received a posthumous Albert Medal for bravery in a smilar incident. http://tinyurl.com/pu6ynng

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