Collins, Samuel Charles. Died 24th Oct 1918

Samuel Charles COLLINS was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire in about 1895 and his birth was registered there with those names in Q4, 1895.  He was the eldest son of George Thomas Collins (b.c.1874 in Stapleford, Nottingham) and Louisa Annie, née Annis, Collins (b.c.1875 in Titchmarsh, Northampton).  Their marriage was registered in Q2, 1895, in Basford, Nottinghamshire.

From the birth records of their other children it seems that the family moved to Long Eaton, Derbyshire before 1898; then to Radford, Nottingham by 1900; and before 1904 to Rugby.  Indeed, Charles, as he was more commonly known, would have six younger brothers by 1911, and two siblings had died before that date.

In 1901, the family was still living in Nottingham at 49 Salisbury Street.  Charles’s father was a ‘cycle fitter’.  It is likely that his father was one of many workers who came to work in Rugby at the expanding British Thompson Houston works in the years immediately before the war.  By 1911, the family was living at 26 Abbey Street, Rugby and Charles was 16 and an ‘Apprentice Engineering’, probably at the B.T.H. works as he was working for them before the war.  His father had moved from the mechanisms of bicycles to become a ‘Fitter Electrical Engineering’, most likely also for B.T.H..

It is not known exactly when Charles joined up, however it must have been fairly early in the war, as his Medal Card states that he went to France on 31 March 1915, and thus qualified for the 1914-15 Star.  He was known to the army as Charles Collins.  The card shows that he was in a Territorial battery of the Royal Field Artillery and he initially had the number 99.  His entry on the Medal Roll states ‘RFA.T.99.Gnr.’.

This early form of number, suggested that he was already a member of the local 1st/1st Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Forces).    Another Rugby casualty, Thomas J Smith,[1] who also worked at B.T.H. was in this unit and also joined up early.  He was a Corporal, No.187 – also a very early number.  Thomas Smith was wounded and died of his wounds on 21 March 1918.

Charles Collins was confirmed as a member of the 4th South Midland (Howitzer), 243 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, 5th Rugby Battery, by a list in the papers of Frank West,[2] which included,

Collins, S. C., 99, Gnr, “K” [killed]’ and also included his details from the CWGC site

From the same papers, the 5th Battery, 243, Transfer List, May 1916’ listed: ‘99  Gnr Collins, C.’, as one of the men and officers from the 5th Rugby Battery of the South Midland 243 Brigade who were transferred to become the ‘D’ Howitzer battery of 241 Brigade in May 1916.[3]

It seems that in the 1916 reorganisations of the Royal Field Artillery, Charles Collins was transferred, at least latterly, into the ‘D’ Battery, 161st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, as a Gunner, No: 840100.[4]  As this Brigade’s Division did not go to France until early 1916, Charles who was already in France, probably joined them to provide more experienced men, and it was perhaps in the 1916 reorganisations, that he was promoted to Lance Bombardier.

A note on the renumbering gives some confirmatory information.

These “long” [six figure] numbers came into use on 1 January 1917, even though the men on active service to whom they were allocated were by that time in other Brigades. … Sampling the medal cards shows that some of the men with lower service numbers on this list who usually have short service numbers too, went out to France when the 4th South Midland Brigade was first sent overseas, arriving in France, 31 March 1915.  … All men who served overseas before the end of 1915 received the 1915 Star and the qualifying date is often marked on their medal cards.

This date 31 March 1915, agrees with the date of entry to France on Charles’s Medal Card – and confirms that he was originally with the 4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

In May 1916, before the Battle of the Somme, the Brigades in the British Artillery were renumbered. The 4th South Midland became 243 Brigade, but its men were scattered, and that is presumably when Charles was posted to the 161st (Yorkshire) Brigade in the 32nd Division.

The ‘CLXI’ or 161st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, was initially in the 31st Division from its formation in April-May 1915 and designated the ‘Yorkshire’.  It was not until August that the Division moved for final training and firing practice at Codford on Salisbury Plain.  They left this Division on 2 December 1915, and joined 32nd Division in the New Year 1916.[5]

In November 1915, the 32nd Division had received a warning order to prepare to sail for France.  However, unless Charles had leave or returned to UK for any reason, he would have joined them at some later date in France.

The 32nd Division remained on the Western Front for the rest of the war and took part in the following engagements:[6]

1916 – Battles of the Somme 1916: the Battle of Albert (1-13 July 1916); the Battle of Bazentin; the Battle of the Ancre.  In 1917 – Operations on the Ancre; the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line.  1918 – The First Battle of Arras, a phase of the First Battles of the Somme 1918; the Battle of Amiens; the Battle of Albert and the Battle of Bapaume, both were phases of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918; the Battle of the St Quentin Canal and the Battle of Beaurevoir, both being phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line; and after Charles’s death, the Battle of the Sambre, including the passage of the Oise-Sambre Canal, a phase of the Final Advance in Picardy.

These many battles would have involved considerable movement of the artillery brigades, and many of the places where the 161st Brigade was in action can be found listed in the Brigade War Diary.[7]  They have also been abstracted and can be found in a posting on the Great War Forum.[8]

The activities of the 161st Brigade in the last month of Charles’s life have been examined, and it is uncertain when he may have been wounded.  During October they were some 10 km. north-east of Saint Quentin and some 20 km. south-east of Cambrai, providing artillery support for ongoing attacks eastwards towards Joncourt, Ramicourt, Brancourt-le-Grand, and Beauregard.

The Diary does not provide daily casualty numbers, but summarises them for the month.  In October 1918, 52 men were wounded, eight being from Charles’s ‘D’ Howitzer Battery.

It is not known whether Charles was one of the eight wounded that month, or whether he had been wounded earlier.  He was certainly evacuated a considerable distance, some 200 kms, presumably to one of the military hospitals at Le Treport on the coast just north of Dieppe as he died from his wounds, on the 24 October 1918, either at Le Treport, or on his way to a hospital there.

He was buried in Plot ref: VII. J. 3A. at the Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, and was identified in the CWGC records as ‘Samuel Charles Collins’.  The family message on the gravestone reads ‘A NOBLE SON’.

Le Treport is a small seaport 25 kilometres north-east of Dieppe, France.  During the First World War, it  was an important hospital centre and by July 1916, the town contained three general hospitals (the 3rd, 16th and 2nd Canadian), No.3 Convalescent Depot and Lady Murray’s B.R.C.S. Hospital.  The 7th Canadian, 47th and 16th USA General Hospitals arrived later, but all of the hospitals had closed by March 1919.  As the original military cemetery at Le Treport filled, it became necessary to use the new site at Mont Huon.  There are now 2,128 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery and also more than 200 German war graves.  The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

There were no obvious death notices or obituaries in the Rugby Advertiser, however, his death was noted in the Birmingham Daily Post.

R.F.A. – Collins, 840100, Lce.-bdr. C. (Rugby).[9]

As Charles Collins, he was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and also the 1914-15 Star.   He is also remembered as C S COLLINS on the Rugby Memorial Gates and also as C S Collins on both the list of BTH Employees who served in the War 1914-1918; and also on the BTH War Memorial.[10] 

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on Samuel Charles COLLINS was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, May 2018.

[1]      https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/smith-thomas-j-l-died-21st-mar-1918/.

[2]      https://sites.google.com/site/4thsouthmidlandbrigade/Home/5th-battery-list-1918.

[3]      From an Appendix to the War Diary of 241 Brigade Royal Field Artillery for May 1916, WO 95/2749.

[4]      His number, starting 840***, is compatible with the renumbering of members of the 4th South Midland Brigade. … In 1917 service numbers beginning 840*** were allocated to men who trained in it, just as they were to those already serving at the front.  When posted to the front most of the later recruits with 840*** numbers served with other artillery units.

[5]      Mostly from: https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-royal-artillery-in-the-first-world-war/royal-field-artillery-brigades/.

[6]      Information from: http://glesgakeelie.proboards.com/thread/2215/32nd-division.

[7]      The War Diary is at TNA ref: WO95/2380 and runs from January 1916 to October 1919.  Ref: UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery, 32nd Division, Piece 2380/4: 161 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, (1916 Jan – 1919 Oct).

[8]      A note by ‘Scott’ at https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/131297-32nd-division-161st-yorkshire-brigade-a-battery/, 23 October 2009.

[9]      Birmingham Daily Post, Saturday, 7 December 1918.

[10]     This is from a list of names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled.  It is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921 and given at https://www.rugbyfhg.co.uk/bth-war-memorial.

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