Thomas Henry Collins

Service:                Army

Rank:                    Private

Service No:           33909

Unit:                     1st Bn. (Duke of Edinburgh’s) Wiltshire Regiment

Thomas was born Bristol in 1888 he was the fifth child of Thomas and Emily Collins. In 1891 the family were living at 1 Waterloo Terrace, Thomas senior was a railway worker. In 1901 Thomas was living with his widowed mother & 3 siblings at 16 Eve Road St George Bristol 13 year old Tom was an Office boy porter. During 1910 Tomas married Kate Pearce and in 1911 we find him living with his wife, baby daughter Hilda & widower father in law Charles Pearce at 49 Lena Street, St Marks, Bristol. Thomas was then employed as a General Labourer.

Thomas enlisted in Bristol to the Wiltshire Regiment.

The 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment was at Tidworth, under command of 7th Brigade in 3rd Division at the outbreak of war. On 14 August 1914 they landed at Rouen and on 18 October 1915 were transferred with the Brigade to 25th Division.The first quarter of 1917 was spent in the Ploegsteert sector; a relatively quiet time punctuated by frequent raids and minor operations.

The Division was selected to be one that would make the assault and was placed in the front line between the Wulverghem-Messines and Wulverghem-Wytschaete roads. The New Zealand Division was on the right and the 36th (Ulster) Division on the left of 25th Division. The attack was made by 74th Brigade on the right, 7th Brigade on the left, with 75th Brigade in close support. In addition to its own field artillery, the Division enjoyed the support of the Guards Division artillery and 34th, 93rd and 2nd New Zealand Army Field Brigades RFA. Two of the huge mines exploded at the start of the attack - those at Spanbroekmolen and Ontario Farm - fell just outside the boundaries of the Divisional front. The Division lost no fewer than 24 infantry company commanders during this action. In total, the losses in this successful action were 145 officers and 2907 men killed, wounded or missing. A further attack was carried out on 14-15 June, designed to advance the line another 800 yards. The Divisional front for this action was between the Blauwepoortebeek stream and the river Douve. Again, this was a successful action and the Division reached the line through Gapaard which is shown on the map below. On the night of 22-23 June, the Division began to withdraw and moved to rest in the area of Bomy, near St-Omer. It then moved on 7 and 8 July to Ypres, where much work began preparing for the Division's part in the next great offensive.

The 25th Division start position at Messines, June 1917:

The Battle of Pilkem (a phase of the Third Battles of Ypres) On 8 July 1917, Divisional HQ was established at Busseboom and came under orders of II Corps for the opening of the Third Ypres offensive. When the attack began on 31 July, 25th Division was in Corps Reserve, behind 24th, 30th and 8th Divisions which were in the front line. 7th and 75th Brigades, in place at Belgian Chateau, received orders to reinforce the attacking units as early as 8.30am but were not called upon to take up the advance as expected, due to the attack being held up. 7th and 75th Brigades relieved the tired units of 8th Division in the front line of the Westhoek and Bellewaarde ridges on 1 August. On 10 August, 74th Brigade took part in the renewal of the attack. In a successful action, Westhoek was captured, although at a severe cost: 47 officers and 1244 men killed, wounded or missing.

Thomas Henry Collins died of wounds received in battle on 21st July 1917. He is buried and remembered with honour at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery : Grave location XVI C.8

 
Image courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Thomas’s widow Kate was later to move to 198 Uxbridge Road, Hanwell, London. It is not known if she claimed her late husband’s medal entitlement that was The British War Medal and The Victory Medal.

 

References

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Soldiers Died in the Great War

1891, 1901 & 1911 census