William Charles Collett was born on the 15th November 1891 at Clapton, Hackney.
His father also William Charles Collett, married his mother, Annie Matilda Knight, in 1886 at Epping. They had eleven children:
- Annie Matilda born in 1887 at Clapton.
- Rose Hannah born in 1889 at Clapton.
- William Charles.
- Florence Rose born in 1894 at Clapton.
- Amy Grace born in 1896 Clapton and died in 1911 at Edmonton.
- Edith Alice born in 1898 at Clapton.
- Daisy Jane born in 1901 at Waltham Cross.
- Elsie Violet born in 1904 at Waltham Cross.
- Hilda Gertrude born in 1907 at Waltham Cross.
- Mabel Phyllis born in 1913 at Edmonton.
- Doris born in 1908 at Clapton.
During the 1891 census the family were living at Glyn Road, Hackney, London and William’s father was employed as a boot finisher. By the time of the 1901 census they had moved and were living at 15, Eleanor Road, Cheshunt and William’s father was now employed as a labourer in the Royal Gun Powder Factory. In the 1911 census they had moved again and were now living at 20, Swanfield Road, Waltham Cross. William was employed as a Nursery Tomato Grower and his father was a Shoemaker.
Little is known about William over the next three years other than he was employed at Cheshunt by a R. Hamilton as a Nursery Hand. He then applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
William was examined by the Police Surgeon Lovell Drage on the 11th July 1914 who signed the following Certificate: I hereby certify that I have examined the above candidate as to his health and bodily strength and consider him fit for the Constabulary of this County. Subject to Dentist’s certificate. He would also have been interviewed and told to wait for a date of Appointment.
William’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Record Sheet has survived and shows that he was Appointed as Constable 320 on the 22nd July 1914. The following was recorded. He gave his age on joining as 22 8/12 years, his place and date of birth as Hackney, London on the 15th November 1891. His height as 5 feet 9 7/8 inches, chest: 36 ½ – 38 ½ inches, complexion fair, eyes grey and hair dark brown. He said he could both ride a pedal cycle and swim. He stated his religion was Church of England.
He started his Probationer training at R Division at Headquarters at Hatfield earning £1/4/6 per week. He was in the 9th Training Class of Recruits with Sergeant 57 Cousins and Constable 20 Wright as his instructors. On the 5th August 1914 he was Attested when he was Approved of and Sworn in before R.B. Fellows J.P. and Theodore Bassett at Hatfield.
On the 11th August 1914 having completed his training he was taken onto the Roster and transferred from R Division at Headquarters to D Division at Hemel Hempstead.
On the 4th May 1915 he passed his Ambulance certificate, an important qualification which entitled him to wear a badge on his lower left tunic sleeve to show he was trained in basic First Aid.
A Coal Strike.
General Order 116 of the 17th July 1915 was entitled Glamorganshire Coal Strike and listed a Sergeant and ten Constables, including William, who were instructed to hold themselves in readiness to proceed at short notice for duty in the Admiralty Coal Fields in Glamorganshire. There is no record which shows that they were deployed.
General Order 125 of the 29th July 1915 and General Order 97 of the 12th August 1916 informed William that he would receive an increase in his rate of pay from £1/4/6 to £1/5/8 per week from the 22nd July 1915 and from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week from the 22nd July 1916, respectively.
General Order 5 of the 22nd January 1917 was entitled Police Constables (Naval and Military Service) Act 1914 Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915 Enlistment in H.M. Forces: Consequent upon the demand for men of military age for service in H.M. Army the Standing Joint Committee have reconsidered the strength at which it is necessary to maintain the force and have authorised that a further 20 members shall be released for Army Service. Five of these have been accepted provisionally by the Army Council for service in the Military Mounted Police. Further instructions with regard to these men will be issued as soon as received.
In accordance with the resolution of the Standing Committee dated 5th January 1917 the Deputy Chief Constable hereby gives the necessary consent as required by the above Acts to a further fifteen Constables for the purpose of enlisting in H.M. Army. William was included in this group. The Constables enumerated will be released from the Police Service as from Thursday 1st February 1917 inclusive and will be paid up to and including the 31st January 1917. General Order 8 of the 25th January 1917 referred to Order 5/1917 and announced that the same fifteen Constables who were being released for military service were being granted leave of absence on 30th and 31st January 1917.
Army Service During The War.
William’s Army Service Record has survived and from this, his Medal Roll Index Card and his Medal Roll we know the following: He enlisted on the 11th December 1915 at Hemel Hempstead and on the 12th December 1915, he was transferred to Section B Army Reserve and returned to his Police duties. This was part of what was known as the Derby Scheme. Thousands of men around the country including dozens of Hertfordshire Police Officers enlisted under the scheme. The Hertfordshire Officers mainly enlisted between the 9th and the 11th December 1915. Every Section B Reservist was issued with an individually numbered Khaki Armlet with a red Crown displayed on it which was to be worn on the upper left arm to demonstrate they were a Reservist and were waiting to be mobilised.
The following information was recorded: He gave his address as 2, Cotterells Hill, Hempstead, his age as 24 years 2 months and his trade as Police. He said he was not married and had never served in the Military before.
His Description on enlistment was recorded: Apparent Age: 24 years 2 months. Height: 5 feet 10 inches. Chest: 38 inches with 1 ½ inches expansion. He gave his next of kin as his mother, Ann Collett of 20, Swanfield Road, Waltham Cross.
His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Hemel Hempstead on the 10th December 1915 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition of his weight which was 156 lbs. A second Medical History Army Form B178 dated the 1st February 1917 showed that he was re-examined at the Central London Recruiting Depot at Whitehall.
An entry on his Army Service Record dated the 2nd February 1917 by the Central London Recruiting Depot Whitehall reads: This man presented himself for direct enlistment but being a Group man, the Watford Sub Area declined to release his documents. He was ordered to report to Watford Recruiting Office at 9.00 a.m. on the 6th February 1917.
On the 6th February 1917 William was mobilised and the following day posted as Acting Lance Corporal P/7480 in the Military Foot Police. On the 12th April 1917 he embarked at Southampton aboard SS Viper and disembarked four days later at Rouen. On the 20th April he was post to the Assistant Provost Marshal at Etaples.
On the 24th May 1917 he was posted to Cherbourg from Etaples arriving two days later for duty on the Lines of Communication Eastern. On the 19th August he joined for duty at Cherbourg Assistant Provost Marshal.
On the 7th February 1918 he was granted 14 days leave to the UK re-joining at Cherbourg. On the 28th September 1918 he was posted to the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal at Abbeville. On the 15th October 1918 he was posted from Abbeville to Le Havre but four days later returned for duty at the Assistant Provost Marshal at Abbeville.
On the 3rd December 1918 he joined the Provost Marshall of the 2nd Army and on the 24th December, he joined the 1st Traffic Company. On the 9th February 1919 he was again granted leave to the UK.
William married Hannah Moxham on the 17th February 1919 at Upton Cum Chalvey, Buckinghamshire. They had a son Edgar Charles born in 1921 at Hertford.
On the 27th February 1919 he re-joined following his leave. On the 4th April 1919 he was posted to the 2nd Army and the Lines of Communication at Dunkirk. On the 7th July 1919 he was once again granted leave to the UK re-joining at Dunkirk on the 20th July. On the 2nd August 1919 he was posted to Calais and on the 9th September 1919, he returned to the UK for demobilisation.
On the 17th October he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on demobilisation at Aldershot.
His Statement as to Disability. Army Form Z22 records: Regt.: Military Foot Police. Regt. No.: P/7480. Rank: L/Cpl. Name: William Charles Collett. Address: 109, High Street, Slough, Bucks. Age last birthday: 27. First joined for duty: 1st February 1917 at Aldershot. Medical category when joined: A1. I do not claim too be suffering from a disability due to my Military Service. Signed William Collett L/C Medically examined at Calais on the 15th September 1919.
His Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity. Army Form No. 11 records: Name: William Charles Collett. Regt. No.: P/7480. Rank: A/L/Cpl. Record Office: Aldershot. Unit: Assistant Provost Marshall Calais. Regt.: Military Foot Police. Pay office: Woking. Address for Pay: 109, High Street, Slough, Bucks. Theatre of War: France. Born: 1891. Medical category: A1. Place of re-joining in emergency: Salisbury. Granted 28 day furlough. Issued 20/09/1919 at Purfleet.
A letter dated the 17th October 1919 records: To Mr. W.C. Collett 109, High Street, Slough, Bucks. Herewith your Certificate of Transfer to Class ‘Z’ Army Reserve. Please acknowledge receipt hereon, a stamped addressed envelope is enclosed. Any change of address should be notified to this Office immediately. (signed) Capt. For Officer I/C Records Military Police Corps. Received (signed) William Charles Collett.
In reply William sent a letter: To Officer I/C Records Military Police Corps Aldershot. P/7480. Sir, With reference to your A.F.Z.21 dated 17th October 1919 of my notification of transfer to Class Z Army Reserve, I have acknowledged same, and enclosed for your information, my recent change of address which is as follows, W.C. Collett, 25, Christchurch Road, Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.
Like every other soldier William would have been granted 28 days leave on his demobilisation and he would have used this time to apply to re-join the Police. He would have had to have undergone a Medical Examination by the Force Surgeon to ensure that he was still fit enough for Police duties. Having passed this, he would have been re-Appointed on the day following the date of the end of his leave period. He was medically examined on the day of his re-Appointment.
Re-joining The Police.
General Order 206 of the 10th October 1919 was entitled Re-appointment to the Force and announced: The undermentioned Constable having been released from H.M. Army is re-appointed to the Force with effect from date shown, inclusive:
PC 320 Collett W.C. D Division Hemel Hempstead from 29th September 1919 on £4/0/0 per week. This officer must be formerly re-attested. The Superintendent concerned will report to this office when this has been done, showing, viz: Date and place of Attestation and before whom taken. William was re-attested on the 1st October 1919.
His Police Service Record was endorsed: Period of Army Service from 1st February 1917 to 28th September 1919 to count as Police Service for pension purposes Vide Standing Joint Committee Resolution 35 dated 9th October 1914.
The 1920 Electoral Roll records William Charles Collett as living at 25, Christchurch Road, Hemel Hempstead.
William’s Police Service record shows that he received an increase in pay to £4/2/0 a week from the 22nd July 1920.
William’s Police Service Record shows that on the 28th July 1920 he was transferred from D Division at Hemel Hempstead to B Division at Hertford. The 1921 to 1926 Electoral Rolls list William Charles and Hannah Collett as living at 16 Townsend Street Hertford.
The following General Orders informed William that he would receive an increased rate of pay on the 22nd July of the year shown: General Order 117 of the 17th July 1921 from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week. General Order 89 of the 18th July 1922 from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week. General Order 126 of the 21st July 1923 from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week. General Order 125 of the 12th August 1924 from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week.
General Order 101 of the 4th August 1926 instructed William that from the 13th August 1926 he was being transferred from B Division at Hertford to E Division at Weston and to occupy a new Police cottage.
The General Strike.
General Order 117 of 29th August 1926 concerned the Emergency Regulations 1926 and instructions for 50 Hertfordshire Police Officers to be on standby should the Secretary of State call upon the County Force to draft men elsewhere. The first 20 named would be required to proceed at 8 hours’ notice or less. These included officers from A,B,C,D and E Divisions and it would appear to qualify to be amongst the 20 you needed to have a motor bicycle available. William was not one of first the twenty named as he did not have a motor bicycle.
General Order 140 of 18th October 1926 declared: EMERGENCY REGULATIONS 1926. The following detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary is detailed for duty in the County of Derby as from 19th October 1926, inclusive: There then follows a list of one Inspector, three Sergeants and 47 Constables which included PC 320 Collett, W.C. of E Division at Weston. The detachment will proceed by nearest railway route to St Pancras, London Midland & Scottish Railway, reporting on the main departure platform at 2 p.m., when Inspector Digby will parade the party and call the roll. The detachment will proceed by the 2.25 p.m. train to Derby. On arrival at Derby, Inspector Digby will report to the representative of the Chief Constable of the Derby County Constabulary who will meet the train and provide omnibus transport to Ripley about 10 miles distant. Dress: Greatcoats, cape, cloth jacket, 2nd cloth trousers, 1925 issue helmet, leggings, truncheons and handcuffs, woollen gloves, lamps, whistles and chains. Divisional Superintendents will advance Railway fares if required and an account for same will be rendered to Headquarters Office for repayment. Inspector Digby will render a daily report direct to the Chief Constable’s Office each day, showing state of health of all members of the detachment and any matters of interest which may occur.
General Order 157 of 14th November 1926 THE EMERGENCY POWERS ACT, 1926. COAL STRIKE. The Chief Constable is gratified to learn that the services of the detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary added temporarily to the Derby County Constabulary, were satisfactory, and he has much pleasure in publishing the following extract from a letter received from the Chief Constable of Derbyshire, under date 11th November 1926: Begins: “The detachment has done very good work and I will be grateful if you will be kind enough to convey to them my warm thanks for their services. I may say that Inspector Digby did very good work indeed and was of great assistance to my Ilkeston Superintendent. Will you also give him my personal thanks”. Ends.
If this letter from the Derbyshire Chief Constable seems a bit luke warm it transpires 10 of the Hertfordshire Constables suffered food poisoning after eating food which was supplied to them on behalf of the Derbyshire Police Authority. The Hertfordshire Force Surgeon said that their illness should be classed as an injury on duty and the Chief Constable agreed and said no one should suffer any stoppages from their pay. William was one of those who suffered from the food poisoning.
The 1928 to 1930 Electoral Rolls list William Charles and Hannah Collett living at the Police Station, Hitchin Road, Weston.
William’s Police Service Record shows that on the 9th December 1930 he was transferred from E Division at Weston to D Division at Rebourn.
Retirement And Life After The Police.
On the 21st July 1939 William retired as a Constable on completion of his 25 years’ service on a pension of £145/9/7 per annum.
The 1939 Register shows William, a retired Police Constable, Hannah and Edgar Collett living at 52, Wood Lane, Hemel Hempstead.
William Charles Collett of 62, St. Albans Road, Hemel Hempstead died on the 17th April 1965 at St. Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead.