Evelyn E. A. Collisson (1893-1916) was born in the village of Haynes in Bedfordshire. In 1896 the family moved to The Rectory in Gravenhurst. His father, Cambridge University scholar the Rev. Thomas Collisson, was Rector of St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst and Vicar of St. Giles’ Church, Upper Gravenhurst.
After being educated at the Boxgrove School, Guildford and at Aldenham School Evelyn chose to enter business life over University. He joined the firm of Gibbs & Sons and was sent to Valparais in Chile. Evelyn had been a Sergeant in the Army Officer Training Corps. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for service and made his way by mule back across the Andes to Buenos Aires. From there Evelyn travelled home aboard the Nelson Line’ Highland Rover. The steamer docked on December 28th, 1914 at the Port of London.
On February 13, 1915 Evelyn joined the Bedfordshire Training Depot in Ampthill Park as a 2nd Lieutenant where he trained with the recruits.
In November 1915 2nd Lieutenant Collisson was posted to join the 2nd Bedfords’ at the Front. He was to receive a Headquarters Staff appointment.
Evelyn served with ‘A’ Company in the Somme region near Maricourt. Wednesday, February 23rd 1916 was a cold, snowy day. At 12:15pm he was killed in action by a single sniper round to the head, and died instantly. Evelyn (22) was buried in the Maricourt in France, the officiating priest being the Rev. G.R. Vallings, Chaplain of the 1/7th Gordon Highlanders. His resting place was marked with an iron cross with a Bedfords’ badge attached to it. Here is the list of personal effects:
On the afternoon of Friday, March 10th the Rev. C. Dickenson, Chaplain to the Duke of Bedford’s Ampthill Camp, led a memorial service at St. Giles’ Church. The mourners included the Rev. T. and Mrs. Collisson, family, friends and parishioners. The Duke of Bedford, twenty of the officers including Majors Nelson, Stevens and Young, Dr Garner, ten non-commissioned officers, and men from the Ampthill Camp attended to pay their respects. The Union Jack flew at half-mast from the Church tower, and a muffled peal on the bells was rung at the close of the service.
The impact and strain on the Rev. and Mrs. Collisson are unimaginable. How to support parishioners in difficult times when their son had been killed by the very same? In July 1916 the Collisson family moved to the village of Swyre, much of which was owned by the Duke of Bedford – more.
Lieutenant Collisson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
On August 10, 1917 Evelyn’s fellow officers and friends gathered to unveil and dedicate a memorial window and a brass plate at St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst. The window which is a fine piece of art representing “War and Peace” is the work of Messrs. Hall and Sons of St.Pancras in London. Evelyn is also remembered in Upper Gravenhurst on the War Memorial in St. Giles’ Churchyard. Evelyn’s grave was consolidated to the Cerisy-Gailly Military cemetery.
The Rev. Thomas Collisson (1852-1921) died in the Dorset village of Swyre, where he is buried. Evelyn’s mother Florence (1856-1942) and his sister each returned to Bedfordshire. Winifred (1900-1993) is buried in St. Mary’s graveyard.
St. Mary’s Church, Lower Gravenhurst
The Bedfordshire Standard
Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service
© S.Hartley (2015-)