Capt Harold Douglas Collis

kidnapped collis

collis medals medal card collis

1894 Sep 9. born Maidstone, Kent. Son of Rev William Henry Collis and his wife Emma Merrett Scrivener who had been married at All Souls Church, Marylebone on the 27th January 1892. His paternal grandfather was Reverend Henry Collis ( born in Dublin). His mother had been born in Poona, India on the 3rd July 1859 and according to their entry in the marriage register her father was the late Colonel Frederick Scrivener. It’s possible that this might have been an honorary title as he had been Honorary Major and Paymaster of the 103rd Regiment (Royal Bombay Fusiliers). According to the 1911 Census the couple had five children and although none of them were at home at the time they were in either 1901 or 1911 censuses.

1901 census collis h d

1901 census. He is with his grandparents at St Philips Vicarage, Maidstone. The family is very split up. His mother is in the vicarage with some of the children, and his father is staying at a "private hotel". Harold is with his grandparents

st lawrence college ramsgate

St Lawrence College, Ramsgate

1911 census shows his father Rev William Henry Collis and mother Emma Merrett Collis (who incidently are both buried in Biddenden Churchyard) at home, no sign of Harold, they have been married 18 years. Harold is at St Lawrence College Ramsgate as a boarder, aged 16. St Lawrence College is a school that draws on "Christian roots"

1912 Left St Lawrence College, on the regisister .He studied accountancy after leaving school. By 1914 had preliminary certificates from Chartered and Incorporated Chartered Institutes

1914 Sep 3. Enlisted as a Private in The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). 19th Battalion (2nd Public Schools),

1914 Oct 3. L/Cpl

1915 Apr 15. The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). 19th Battalion (2nd Public Schools), Harold Douglas Collis to be temporary Second Lieutenant. Dated 15th April,

1915 Jul 27. Army Cyclist Corps The undermentioned temporary Second Lieutenants to be temporary Second Lieutenants. Harold D. Collis, from The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). In 1915, the Army Cyclist Corps was founded to encompass the earlier teritorial cyclist units; it later extended to cover a dozen more battalions raised from second-line yeomanry regiments which had been converted to cyclists. The first cyclist units went overseas in 1915 to France and Flanders and to Gallipoli, undertaking a reconnaissance role with the Army Divisions and taking the number of the Division. Following the war, cyclists were perceived to have little value, and the Corps was disbanded in 1919; by 1922 all remaining Territorial cyclist battalions had been converted back to conventional units.

1916 Jun 10. The undermentioned temp. 2nd Lt. to be temp. Army Cyclist Corps. Lt.:H. D. Collis.

1918 Apr 10. Army Cyclist Corps. Temp. Lt. H. D. Collis to be acting Major while commanding. a Battalion. Till 1 May when relinquishes rank.

1918 May 1. Army Cyclist Corps. Temp. Lt. H. D. Collis to be acting Capt. with pay and allces. of Lt. while employed. as Adjutant

1918 Jun 5. Temp. Lt. H. D. Collis relinquishes the acting rank of Capt. on ceasing to be employed as Adjutant.

1918 May 30. Gazetted a Mention in Despatches

1919 Feb 25. Applies for a permanent commission but does not get it

1919 Aug 4. Relinquishes his commission with rank of Lt

1920 Sep 20. The Mid Clare brigade of the I.R.A. captured two British spies (D L MacLean and H D Collis) who had been operating in the Ennistymon area.  In the early autumn a British Army officer dressed in civilian clothes came to the garage where I.R.A. Volunteer Thomas Mc Donough worked in Ennistymon and hired a car and a driver for that evening:

“I recognised him at once as a Captain [Donald] MacLean who had been stationed in Lahinch with a detachment of Scottish Horse a year previously. He did not, of course, give his name or say what business he was on. I was detailed to drive him. Before going out with him I consulted  [John Joe] ‘Tosser’ Neylon who said ‘By all means go with him, keep an eye on what he is doing and report back.’ For three days I drove him to various parts of county Clare including Kilfenora, Ballyvaughan and Lisdoonvarna. On one day he was alone with me; on the other two he had a companion (Collis) with him also in civilian clothes. … I gathered that MacLean was trying to give me the impression that he was a commercial traveller, for he made calls at shops and hotels. He asked me various questions such as the names of places we drove through and the names of people living in certain houses. My answers were vague, either telling him that I did not know or giving him incorrect information, but I noticed that the routes chosen by him brought us to the vicinity of the homes of active volunteers including that of Sean McNamara, commandant of the 6th Battalion, and then a ‘much wanted’ man by the British forces. Often on the tops of hills or on high ground he, MacLean, would ask me to stop and he would get out and view the countryside. Each night he returned to Ennistymon and each night I reported the days proceedings to Neylon.”

A 1996 edition of the Clare Champion published a letter written from Ennis on 29 Sep 1920, among other things the woman who wrote it put

The man that was sent from Dublin to assist me was kidnapped from the Imperial Hotel, Lisdoonvarna, last Sunday week. He went there for a weekend with another ex- officer, a Mr. McClean. Both of them disappeared and have not been heard or seen since. My Mr. Collis was a young fellow. He is an Englishman. I don’t know what he did. He was staying at the Old Ground when he was in Ennis. There were rumours around last week that he and McClean were found dead but it is not true I heard since

sap hotel lisdoonvarna Ballinalacken Castle
Spa Hotel at Lisdoonvarna
Ballinalacken Castle

It was obvious to the IRA that Captain MacLean and his companion Captain Collis were gathering information to plan a ‘round up’ of leading I.R.A. members in the area and the I.R.A. decided to capture and interrogate the two British officers. They were disarmed and arrested by I.R.A. Volunteers as they left a dance at at the Spa Hotel in Lisdoonvarna on the night of 19th-20th September, and were taken to Ballinalacken Castle for interrogation. MacLean and Collis were held, interrogated and released after 2 weeks after giving an assurance that they would leave Ireland immediately. The Mid Clare Brigade passed all the information they had gathered from them on to I.R.A. intelligence. The pair were exceptionally lucky not to have been executed by the I.R.A. Had they been captured just forty eight hours later in the wake of the Rineen Ambush and the widespread British reprisals that followed they would almost certainly have been executed by the I.R.A.

They were picked up at 1 a.m on 20th Sept and released 2 weeks later on the evening of 5th October

It is not known whether or not he kept his promise to the I.R.A. to leave Ireland immediately.

Odd postscript is that another British Officer, Arthur George Baker, (See ADRIC) , applied for his medals from here on 24 Oct 1920 , implying that he was resident there for a while.

1921 Sep 1. Relinquishes his commission. Army Cyclist Corps. Temp. Lt. H. D. Collis, and retains the rank of Lt. He had alread relinquished his commission in 1919 , so must have been re-commissioned "off gazette" in order to spy in Ireland

1925 Jul 18 at Marylebone. Marriage to Hilda N Harris in London

1929 Sep 27 Drink drive charge. He was fined £20 plus costs and 12 month suspension of licence. Interstingly his IRA kidnap came up in court

1931 Feb 10 Divorce decree absolute. Reported in The Times. Collis H N versus Collis H D

1931 Jul/Sep at Brighton. Marriage to Elizabeth M Stevenson produced 2 sons - Meyrick D P born 1932 and David M born Jan/Mar 1936

1936 Apr 5. Died Midhurst, Sussex aged 41

Intelligence Dublin Castle

WO 339/29669 Lt H D Collis