Thursday 25 February 2016

The Rector of Gravenhurst’s Son Killed

Second Lieutenant E E A Collisson

Friday 25th February 1916: The village of Gravenhurst sustained a great loss two days ago when the son of its rector was killed in action with the 2nd Battalion near Maricourt on the River Somme. Second Lieutenant Evelyn E A Collisson was the only son of Rev Thomas and Mrs Collisson of Gravenhurst Rectory and was born at Haynes Vicarage on July 19th 1893. He was educated at Boxgrove School, Guildford, where he gained many prizes for both studies and sports and left a Prefect at the top of the school in every subject. He then entered Aldenham School(1) and gained a Junior Platt Scholarship, being placed at once in a high form. During his five years at the school he won classical, history and sports prizes and the school heaped honours upon him. A Prepositor, Head of Mr Paull’s House, Captain of the games, Editor of the magazine, President of the Debating Society, he gained a Senior Platt scholarship and the promise of a leaving exhibition if he entered the University. On leaving school his Housemaster wrote to his father: “He has achieved the greatest distinction possible at a public school”. Peterhouse College offered him a History Exhibition, to develop into a scholarship, but as he desired to enter into business life he did not proceed to the University. He at once entered the house of Messrs Gibbs and Sons of 22 Bishopsgate(2), who that same year sent him out to their house in Valparaiso, Chile: there excellent prospects were held out to him, but at the beginning of the war he offered his services and cabled to his father, “May I come? I want to”. Receiving a favourable reply he, with Brian James Brett Walsh, an Aldenham scholar, in the same house of business, started over the Andes through the snow, on mule back, to Buenos Aires, being unable to travel by sea, as the German Fleet which sank the Monmouth was then in the Valparaiso roads(3).

He joined the Duke of Bedford’s Camp at Ampthill as a Second Lieutenant. At Aldenham School he passed the Military Certificate A, top, gaining unusually high marks; was a Sergeant in the AOT Corps(4) and won the challenge cup for shooting. From the Ampthill Camp he went to the Front in France and was to have received a Headquarters Staff appointment. He was killed in action on February 23rd at 12.15 pm, shot by a sniper and death was instantaneous. Numerous letters from his Schools, from Messrs Gibbs and Son and from the Ampthill Camp and from the Front testify to his bright spirits, bravery and ability, while the Headquarters Staff of the Division to which he was attached(5) sent a message to his parents that had he been spared he would have had a great future in the Army. His first school report began: “He is wonderfully in earnest for so young a boy”. This was one of his many delightful characteristics all through life/ His school companion, who crossed the Andes with him, died of wounds received at Gallipoli(6) and he was just such another brave Englishman who had that high sense of duty and patriotism, enabling him to give up excellent prospects to serve his King and country . They were the same age, 22 years. Second Lieutenant E E A Collisson was buried at Maricourt, the officiating priest being the Rev G R Vallings, Chaplain of the 1st/7th Gordon Highlanders.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 17th March 1916

(1) Both schools are still in existence
(2) Merchants dealing in cloth, guano, wine, fruit, banking, shipping and insurance, the latter became its main concern and it is now part of international conglomerate Marsh and McLennan
(3) Chile was neutral in World War One. This German fleet was victorious at the Battle of Coronel on 1st November 1914, sinking two armoured cruisers, Monmouth and Good Hope. The German fleet was defeated and destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8th December.
(4) Army Officer Training
(5) 30th Division.
(6) His name was actually Brian James Brett Walch – a Second Lieutenant with the Essex Regiment who died on 28th October 1915 and is buried at Embarkation Pier Cemetery, Gallipoli 

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