Private Richard Pelham Collins

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Pte R P Collins
1/14th London Scottish Regiment
2207
Killed in action, 1.11.1914
Age, 24

Richard Pelham Collins was descended from a distinguished Jewish family whose London roots reach back to at least 1780. His grandfather, Hyman Henry Collins was a noted architect and surveyor and his father Arthur Pelham Collins (1864-1932) was associated with the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for 43 years. This connection began in 1881 when he became an apprentice scenic artist, followed by a period as stage manager, then producer and finally as managing director from 1896 until he retired in 1924. He saved the theatre from demolition when he raised the required £1000 for the lease in 1896.

Arthur Pelham Collins married Elizabeth Abels (b. Streatham, 1869) in London in 1888. Richard was born in 1890 in High Holborn where the family lived at College Chambers. A second son, Arthur Pelham Collins, was born in 1893. By 1901 Richard was at school at 59, London Road in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. He also attended Bowden House School in Seaford, East Sussex where his death was commemorated on their memorial plaque. In 1911 the family lived at Fir Grange, Windsor Walk in Weybridge and Richard was an art student. His mother must have died as his father remarried in 1901 to Belle Bulford (Jette) Thom, an American citizen.

Richard was one of the earliest volunteers as he entered the theatre of war on the Continent on 15 September 1914. His brother, Arthur also saw military service as he was with the British Expeditionary Force, East Africa at the time of his marriage to Kathleen Lucy Ellen Gill at St. James’ Church, Weybridge on 18 June 1918. He survived. Richard was assigned to 1/14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish). They experienced a baptism of fire when they were thrust into the First Battle of Ypres (19 October-22 November 1914). On 29 October Richard and his comrades were transported by 34 London buses, through the night to Ypres. On 31 October they went into the line at Messines to counter-attack. The trenches formed a line a little in advance of the Messines-Wytschaete road. They were under the command of the Calvary Corps but when they reached the crowded Calvary trenches they had to find shelter where they could. They entrenched at dusk. The Germans broke through on their left at about 2 am, but were thrown back by the repeated bayonet charges of the battalion’s reserve company. By daylight when the Germans were about to encircle them Richard’s unit had no choice but to retreat, which they did under heavy rifle and machine gun fire. They had entered combat with 26 officers and 750 other ranks; in this relatively short period of time they sustained 278 casualties of which 11 were officers. Richard was one of the fatalities of I November 1914.

He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres (now Ieper). His father lived in Weybridge until his death in 1932, when his home was Tythe Barn, in St. George’s Avenue.

Sources:

Collins-Robertson Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915, www.ancestry.co.uk
Pantomines at Drury Lane, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, www.its-behind-you.com/drurylanepantos.html
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – London Regiment, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
Mr Arthur Collins, The Times, 14 January 1932
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War of 1914-1918, www.ancestry.co.uk

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