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  • Christina Drummond

Private Thomas Collis, A Company, 9th Battalion, The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Private Thomas Collis, A Company, 9th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was listed as missing and presumed killed in action at Salonica, Macedonia.

The 9th Battalion was a service battalion, raised from volunteers and only intended for the duration of the Great War. By early September of 1914, a thousand men had enlisted and were in billets at Lewes and Eastbourne; by the end of October the battalion had moved to Seaford to join the 65th Brigade. They trained on the south coast until June of 1915, when they moved to Aldershot for further training (musketry and brigade manoeuvre), and on the 4th of September they embarked for France. On arrival, the distinguished General Sir Charles Carmichael Monro, 1st Baronet, GCB, GCSI, GCMG, gave them great praise: “This brigade is the best brigade in the division, and your battalion is the best battalion in the brigade.” The battalion spent five months in France, both in further training and on trench duty, without serious incident, and then at the end of October they set sail for Salonica, where they covered the retreat of the 10th Division from Serbia. Greece was not an allied country at the time, its sympathies lying with Germany. In late November the 65th Brigade were at Lake Doiran, experiencing a harsh Macedonian winter; the Bulgarians were advancing and Allied formations found themselves pushed back.

Private Collis lost his life along with many other men in the regiment due to a company commander making the erroneous assumption that the advancing Bulgarian troops were French. The regiment did manage to withdraw, covered by a platoon under the command of Lieutenant J.S. Robinson, a decorated and courageous officer. Private Collis’ body was never recovered. As with many a young man who volunteered at the outbreak of the Great War and subsequently lost his life, only a photograph remains - details of his life, and even his age, are so far unknown.

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