Lieut. Martin Collier (RN)
We now have further news regarding the death of Martin Collier. He received orders to take his submarine, H 10, with a crew of 26, on dangerous secret service. He sailed from Harwich into the North Sea, never to return. It is thought that perhaps the submarine hit a mine. Martin had left a noble letter to be delivered to his family in case he did not return.
Further tributes have been forthcoming, this from Sidney Herbert, a fellow officer:
“Martin Collier was captain of one of those of our submarines which go out and are no more heard of, and had I any official knowledge of how they were lost I might not reveal it.”
Sidney remembers stories of Martin when they were at RNC Osborne, roaming the island “sometimes within bounds, sometimes with long chases that brought him in contact with authorities in a way which made the less daring among us hold our breath.”
From Osborne Martin went on to Dartmouth, where his sport flourished. Martin was a talented rugby player. He played for the United Services and he was described as “the hardest working forward in perhaps the best club pack in England.”
In 1913/14 he played for the South and could well have gone on to make the England team. He was also a boxer of note, winning the Navy & Marines’ middle-weight boxing championship of 1910.
I am most grateful to Martin’s father, Lieut.-Col. Collier, for forwarding me the letter he received from the chaplain of HMS Alecto, written immediately after H 10 had failed to return:
“… I knew your son very well indeed and without any hesitation I can say that he was one of the very finest characters it has ever been my privilege to meet. He was a real, clean, upright Christian gentleman. I personally shall miss him more than I can say.
He was a great help to me here, and the example he set of simple manly religion greatly impressed the officers and men, not only of his own crew, but of the whole depot. He always read the lesson at our parade services when he was in harbour, and was a very regular communicant…
He was most sympathetic and understanding and we all loved him. His crew, whom I knew well, were devoted to him. I saw his coxswain’s wife yesterday, and she told me that she tried to persuade her husband to report sick and miss this last trip, as he had a bad cold. But the coxswain said he couldn’t think of letting Mr Collier go without him.
This spirit animated the whole crew, and proves what we who knew him always recognised, that your son was a born leader of men – but he was more than that, he was a very perfect and courageous gentleman…
He has fought the good fight, he has finished his course, he has kept the faith…”
Coincidentally, today’s ‘Roll of Honour’ in the Daily Telegraph not only recorded Martin’s death, but also listed 2nd Lieut. William Sheepshanks (KRRC) as “Previously reported missing, now reported killed.”
We posted as much on December 27th (Bill having been “missing” since July 10th 1917). It has taken until now for the authorities finally to make this official.