Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1915, Flight Lieutenant Charles Herbert Collet D.S.O., the Royal Naval Air Service, died after a crash landing near Imbros in Turkey. He had taken off from the airfield when shortly afterwards his engine failed, causing the plane to plummet to the ground and burst into flames. Chief Petty Officer Michael Sullivan Keogh of H.M.S. Ark Royal, despite receiving severe burns, managed to pull him from the wreckage (and was awarded the Albert Medal for his gallantry). Flight Lieutenant Collet’s injuries were grievous and he died less than an hour later.
The son of an engineer, he attended Dulwich College, and in 1905 was commissioned into the Royal Marine Artillery. Immediately after the outbreak of the Great War, his unit ran patrols along the North Sea coast, but after three weeks moved to Saint-Pol-sur-Mer near Dunkirk. The following month he made the war’s first long-distance air raid into enemy territory – flying two hundred miles to bomb the Zeppelin shed at Dusseldorf. His plane was hit but he returned home safely and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Frederick A. Talbot gave this account: “Flight Lieutenant Collet approached the Zeppelin shed at Dusseldorf at an attitude of 6,000 feet. There was a bank of mist below which he encountered at 1,500 feet. He traversed the depth of this layer and emerged there from at a height of only 400 feet above the ground. His objective was barely a quarter of a mile ahead. Travelling at high speed he launched his bombs with what proved to be deadly precision and disappeared into cover almost before the enemy had grasped his intentions."
In March of 1915 his unit was sent to take part in the Gallipoli campaign. Flight Lieutenant Collet was twice Mentioned in Despatches and promoted to the rank of Flight Commander before his death. He is buried in the Lancashire Landing Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.
Charles, born in India and raised in Guernsey and Southampton, was 27 years old