SON OF A FORMER MINISTER OF ST. LUKE’S AND RESIDENT OF ALDERLEY ROAD
Henry William Howell Collett was born in Sheffield, circa 1890, the son of Reverend William Collett, a Wesleyan Methodist minister and his wife Emily. Due to the nature of William’s work, the family lived in many different places, including Altrincham, Lancaster, Sheffield, Stockport, Hoylake and Chester. William Collett became the minister at St. Luke’s in 1910 and he spent four years in Hoylake, before moving to another church in Chester in 1914. Records show that at the time Henry (Reverend Collett’s son) volunteered for the Armed Forces, he was living at 58 Alderley Road in Hoylake and working as a solicitor for Watson and Atkinson in Liverpool.
Henry joined the “1st Liverpool Pals” (the very first Pals Battalion ever to be formed) and was assigned to the 17th Service Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment on 2nd September 1914, when he was described as being 5’ 8½” tall, and weighing 163lbs. Between 29th April and 4th September 1915, Henry was at Belton Camp near Grantham in Lincolnshire. From 5th September until he embarked for France on 7th November 1915, he was at Lark Hill Camp on Salisbury Plain. Henry eventually served in the U.K. for a year and 66 days and in France for 266 days, giving a total military service of a year and 332 days.
Henry’s unit was part of 89th Brigade, 30th Division. It stayed in France for the duration of the war. The Liverpool Pals were amongst the most successful battalions who attacked the German defences on the Somme on 1st July 1916. Henry was involved and came through unscathed, but his brigade’s attack on 30th July was more problematic.
The 17th were required to support the 18th and 20th Liverpools as they attacked the heavily fortified village of Guillemont. The advance was planned to start at 04.45. Despite the fact that the night was dark and foggy, the Germans knew the British were coming and bombarded their positions with gas shells. Nevertheless, the Merseysiders began their attack as planned, shrouded in fog. The 17th Battalion was caught out in the open when the fog lifted and many of its members were cut down by machine gun fire. This is probably the point at which Henry was badly wounded. We do not know the exact nature of his wound, but it was later agreed that he would never have recovered from it. He was picked up by stretcher bearers and attended by a doctor, but, when he was being carried along a communication trench towards the field ambulance,
a shell landed and obliterated the party.
Because of this, Henry was posted as missing, but, due to the fact that the chaplain later interviewed witnesses and got the truth, it was eventually agreed that he had been killed in action. His body having been totally destroyed, Henry has no known grave and is therefore one of the 72,203 names on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
After the War, his parents and brothers Maurice John and Charles Edward settled at 8 Shelton Road, Wallasey.
We are indebted to Stephen Roberts for all this information, which is included in his Imperishable Record.