(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Collin was born between October and December 1891 in Failsworth, Manchester. His father was called John James and his mother was Bertha. He was their oldest surviving child. His siblings were Harold, Alice, Clifford, Irene and Harry. The family had lost 3 other children by 1911.
When the 1891 Census was taken in April John ran the 'Wheat Sheaf Inn', at 699 Oldham Road in Failsworth. He continued to run this pub for at least the next 20 years. He employed 2 servants to help him throughout this time. In 1911 Collin gave his job as 'at home', which could mean he helped his father run the pub.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Collin joined the Army in around February 1916. He enlisted in the 10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a Territorial Force unit based in Oldham, near Failsworth. The original 10th Battalion was sent to Egypt on the 10th September 1914. A second 10th Battalion (2/10th) had been formed shortly afterwards from new recruits. Collin was assigned to this unit.
The 2/10th Battalion trained at Crowborough in Sussex until March 1916 when they moved to Colchester in Essex.
Soldiers serving with units of the Territorial Force were given new service numbers in around March 1917. Collin's became 376863. We don't know his old number. We don't believe Collin left the UK before the new service numbers were allocated.
The 2/10th Battalion was sent to the Western Front in France at the beginning of March 1917. Their first tour of the trenches came in the middle of the month when they entered the line near Cuinchy.
Their new home was in poor condition. The trenches were waist deep in mud and the Germans held the high ground. This meant they could see what the battalion was doing, and very easily use artillery and snipers to inflict casualties.
Collin sent a letter home to his 'Aunt, Uncles and Cousin Elsie' on the 24th March:
Just a line to let you know I am still in the best of health + I hope you all are the same. My address is 376863, D Company Lewis Gun Section, 2/10 Manc Rgt, BEF, France. We are having very fair weather here just at present only it goes so very cold at night + then it is a matter of getting warm as best you can.
We are in the trenches again for 12 days + I am writing this letter in my little dug-out so you must excuse the shortness of the letter as it is being written under difficulties. I am glad to say that the part of the line we are in is not so very rough at present but I reckon thing will be very lively when he have to advance along with the rest of the line + then things will perhaps be to [sic] lively.
Tell Willie when you write to him again that I am out here + doing my bit. By the news in the papers we look to be giving the Germans snuff + have got them on the run, so it looks as if we shall soon have them beaten. I will close now as I cannot tell you what all I want as it is not allowed so please excuse short letter + hoping to be back in blighty for good with you all before long.
Your loving nephew and cousin, Collin.
The battalion carried out several tours of duty in the front lines during March and April. Although this area was considered quiet, it was still dangerous. The battalion lost 10 men killed in action during this period. One of them was Collin. He was 25 years old.
Collin died on the 3rd April. His Platoon Commander, Lieutenant Norman Stones, wrote to John later that day telling him what had happened. 'He was killed at 2-30 this afternoon by a sniper'. Norman had been 'within a few yards of him at the time of his death'.
Captain Gervase Rodgers provided more details. Collin 'was under my command + this morning was placed on guard on the front line'. Collin was 'a cheerful lad + always made the best of any situation. I had a few minutes chat with him yesterday afternoon when visiting the sentries, that's the last I saw of him, he died at his post, a soldier's death, and it may comfort you to know that death was instantaneous.'
Gervase packaged up Collin's personal effects and sent them to the rear to be sent on to John and Bertha. There was 'a cigarette case, a small YMCA Testimonial, a diary containing a small white celluloid mirror and comb, Soldier's Pay Book, Wallet containing Cap Badge, pearl hafted pocket knife, 4 letters from home, 2 1/2 d in coppers [money], case with steel mirror, 5 postcard photos, 2 miniatures and 1= 10 franc note and 11=5 franc notes, on further consideration I enclose the franc notes in this letter'.
The battalion's Chaplain, Charles Cecil Dickson, carried out Collin's funeral. As he wrote: 'He lies in a very pretty little cemetery on the edge of the line, amid his fellow soldiers who also have had the supreme honour of giving their lives for their country. His grave is marked with a wooden cross, on which is written his name, number, Regiment and date of death'.
The wooden crosses were replaced with stone headstones during the 1920s. Collin was buried in what is now known as Cambrin Military Cemetery, along with 814 other men. His grave reference is H. 49.