Henry Collis was born in 1876 in Reading, Berkshire, which was his mother Ellen’s home town. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Marylebone in London, where Henry’s father, Arthur was employed as a Potman in an Inn. Arthur and Ellen would eventually have five children, though two died in childhood.
Henry lived almost all of his life in London, and was employed initially as a Groom, before later becoming a Coachman, and finally a Bus Conductor. In 1903, he married Harriett Ketley, who was a widow and 18 years his senior. Sadly, Harriett died six years later.
In July 1914, Henry married again, this time to 27 year old Jessie Taylor, who lived in the same street as him in north London. Jessie had been born in Rotherhithe, but her family had moved to Frating when she was a small child, before relocating to Balls Green.
Henry and Jessie lived for a time at Teddington, and it was there in December 1915 that he volunteered to join the Army, though he was not called up until June the following year. At the age of 39, Henry was very close to what was then the maximum age to join the Army, though this limit was increased in 1916.
After completing his Basic Training, Henry was sent to France on 25th October 1916. He spent just over two weeks at an Infantry Base Depot in Rouen, before being posted to the 8th Battalion of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). During the 10 months that Henry served with the 8th Queen’s, they took part the Battle of Arras, the Battle of Messines and also the early stages of the Third Battle of Ypres.
There is evidence to suggest that Henry and Jessie had at least one son before he joined the Army, and another who was born in July 1917. By then, Jessie had moved to Great Bromley, to be close to her family. It is recorded that by the 1920s she was living at Dearsley Place on Frating Road.
Henry died of wounds on 11th September 1917 at Le Treport - a town on the Channel coast, near Dieppe - which was the site of an important hospital centre. The Third Battle of Ypres had opened on 31st July, and it is almost certain that Henry was wounded during the first weeks of the fighting. Henry was laid to rest in what is now called the Mont Huon Military Cemetery, at Le Treport.
We believe Henry's sons were Arthur and Walter (Wally) Collis, both builders who never married. They lived with their mother at Harwin on Frating Road.