Private Henry Collins

Regiment:  8th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment
Service No: G/1739
Date & place of birth: April 1894 at Terwick Common, Rogate
Date & place of death: 31 July 1917 (aged 23) near Ypres, Belgium. 

Henry Collins was a local lad being born, growing up and working in the village.

Family background

In 1901, Henry Collins lived on Fyning Common in Forester’s Cottage. He was the eldest son of nine children of Henry Collins, who was born in Iping, and worked as a woodman, and his wife Ellen née Luff, who was born in Rogate. Henry was then at School.

By 1911 Henry had become a labourer in the garden of Sir George Hugh Wyndham (a retired diplomat) at Rogate Lodge, but was still living at home in Forester’s Cottage. Henry [senior] was then a forester on the estate.

Military service

Henry signed up for military service at The White Hart Inn at Rogate on 3 September 1914, alongside his younger brother Jack. He was given the regimental number 1739 in the 3rd Battalion of The Royal Sussex.

The 3rd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment was formed at Chichester and at the start of the war formed a supply unit at Newhaven as troops embarked for France. After 324 days “At Home”, Henry and Jack were transferred to the 8th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and travelled across the Channel to Boulogne in May 1915. The 8th Battalion moved to the Somme front, and took over trenches in the Mametz-Montauban sector. They remained in this quiet sector until the Battle of the Somme, taking part in the attack on Montauban on 1 July1916. During the subsequent fighting for Trônes Wood on 13/14 July, they played a prominent role in the battle. The 8th Battalion fought in the capture of Thiepval on 26 September 1916.

The battalion stayed on the Somme until the spring of 1917, when it moved to the Arras front. Here it took part in the fighting on the Hindenburg Line at Héninel, and at Chérisy on 3 May. It then moved to Flanders.

31 July 1917 was the first day of the Battle of Pilckem Ridge which in turn was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres. On that day Henry was a member of B Company. The Company had been resting, but on 30 July the company was ordered to move up to a new camp at a map reference H 23 d 57. At 8.30am on 31 July, three platoons of B Company were instructed to proceed on ATE pack track for work. At 9.33am Captain Hill reported that B Company and one Company of the East Surreys had arrived safely at Zillebeke Bund and would be resting until 10.30am. However, at 10.15 the Royal Sussex War Diary states that B Company were instructed to return to Zillebeke Bund. It is not clear what took place between 9.33 and 10.30.

B Company was still at Zillebeke Bund at 6.20pm and at that time Henry was listed as being wounded. One factor not recorded in the War Diary was the poor weather on 31 July. Cloud cover in the early morning delayed the dawn and particularly in the afternoon there was heavy rain which continued into August.

Death and commemoration

Henry Collins died on 31 July 1917 from wounds that he had received in the battle. He is buried in the Bedford House Cemetery, Zillebeke, Belgium and commemorated on the Rogate War Memorial.

Other family members

In 1917, Henry’s elder sister Ellen married Edward Blunden, who died in Russia on 1 September 1919.

His younger brother, Jack, was wounded at Thiepval in September 1916 and discharged from the army in August 1917.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project