John Allen Collett(e)
Date of birth: 1882
Date of death: 9.5.1915
Regiment: 1st Royal Berkshire
Family information: Husband of Annie Collett
Service number: 6017
The Wakefield Express had a very comprehensive obituary to him on 12th June 1915
“Wrenthorpe Soldier Killed in Action
One of the Brave Berkshires
Memorial Service at the Church
The Vicar and a cruel Power
“A form of civilisation which is worse than heathenism”
Mrs Collett of Wild’s Buildings Wrenthorpe received last night an intimation from the War Office that her husband John Allen Collett had been killed in action on May 9th and the news was received with much regret in the village. He was a reservist in the 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales) and he re-joined his regiment on August 4th. He went to France on October 14th and was soon in the thick of the fighting. He went through the battles at Neuve Chapelle and Hill 60 and came out without a scratch. Although he must have had some awful experiences his letters to his wife were always cheery. The last letter she received was on May 10th and they contained good wishes (and a present) for his little girl’s birthday on the 14th. He stated that he was just going through another big battle and he expressed the hope that he would have the same luck as he had had in the other engagements.
Deceased took part in the second battle of Ypres and a lance-corporal, writing of the heroism of the Berkshires on this memorable occasion says:-
“On the order to advance we went about 20 yards when a light went up and we laid down to avoid being seen. When we had gone 100 yards the enemy spotted us and their sentries and machine guns opened rapid fire. Bullets were flying everywhere and men were falling all round, but we rushed on for all we were worth. The German artillery opened fire with a terrible crash and we charged on through the fire and smoke of bursting shells and the hail of bullets shouting ‘Come on Berkshires we will dig them out’. By this time all the companies were mixed up in one big crowd and we were going through the German barbed wire entanglements, throwing bombs at them and storming their front parapets. Most of them took to their heels and fled, while those who stood their ground were bayoneted. On we went to the next line of trenches, bayoneting the runners right and left. We soon finished them in the second line and advanced about 50 yards beyond. When we handed over the position to another regiment and we went back to reorganise we saw the bodies of our comrades lying thick. We could easily pick them out for each wore on the back a big white patch for the purpose of identification. Half our number had gone.”
Deceased, when he went away had a silver watch and chain and gold ring and his widow wrote to the authorities asking if they could be returned to her, but she received the following reply from the Infantry Records Office Warwick:-
‘I beg to inform you that I have not received from the Expeditionary Force any of the articles mentioned by you as the effects of your deceased husband. The only article received here is an empty box which had contained HRH Princess Mary’s Christmas gift and will be forwarded to you when instructions are received from the War Office.
The probable explanation of these articles not being forthcoming is that your husband was killed during an attack on the 9th May and his remains together with the others who fell in the same action were buried under such circumstances as made the searching of pockets an impossibility. I regret that I am unable to furnish you with any further particulars of your husband’s death, as I have only the bare report that he was killed in action.’
Private Collett, who was 33 years of age when war broke out, was a shunter at Wrenthorpe in the employ of the Great Northern Railway Company and he was much respected by his comrades. He leaves a widow and two young children (girls). He was a native of Woodburn near Maidenhead Berks.
A Memorial service was held in Wrenthorpe Church on Sunday evening, which was very well attended…”
John, who was PTE 6017, was awarded the 14 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. He is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial as well as Wrenthorpe War Memorial.
John Allen Collett (registered as Allen John Collette) was born about 1882 son of Ephraim and Jane who in 1891 were living at Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire. He had three brothers and four sisters in this census – Ben (b1872), Eva (b1877), Naomi (b1879), Ella (b1881), Dennis (b1884) and Lily A (b1889). Ephraim was a straw boiler while Ben was a general servant and Eva a domestic servant.
In 1901 at 19 years of age John was an infantry private at Oxford Wood Barracks, Reading, Berkshire but in 1911 he was married to Annie, living at 19 Broadway, Maidenhead and said to be a male nurse. Between 1911 and 1914 he must have moved with his family up to Wrenthorpe where he worked as a shunter on the railway.