Regiment : 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry
Service number : 5117681
Conflict : WW2
Date of death : 20th November 1944 aged 22
Buried : Leopoldsburg War Cemetery, Belgium, Grave VI. B. 14.
Memorial : Wychbold St Mary De Wyche Church
Credits : Bromsgrove Weekly Messenger researched and transcribed by Sandra Taylor.
Appears on the Army casualties list for Worcestershire.
Appears on the list of WW2 casualties for the Bromsgrove District.
Information provided by family members of this casualty provide the information that the mix up in names occurred when, as a young boy, Kenneth was nicknamed Pat after the well known Fair Showman Pat Collins and was thereafter always known as Pat.
Kenneth Collins enlisted in the army on 31st May 1940 in Worcester. He was just 18 years of age having celebrated his birthday on 18th May. He was given the rank of Private, service no 5117681 and was posted to the 11th Home Defence Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment at Aston Barracks, Witton, Birmingham. At the time of his attestation Kenneth was 5ft 4½ inches tall with a fresh complexion, fair hair and grey eyes. His next of kin is given as his grandfather, Thomas Hughes Senior of Wychbold.
Kenneth’s service records reveal that he was sent with his battalion to Wittering in Lincolnshire in July 1940. On 19th September 1940 he was transferred from the Royal Warwickshire Regiment to the 70th battalion South Staffordshire Regiment and by 31st November 1940 he was in Saltburn-on-Sea, Northumberland. Here he remained until the summer of 1942 during which time he was granted several periods of leave. From Saltburn he was posted first to Northallerton and then transferred to the 7th battalion South Staffordshire Regiment and posted to Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Over the next two years, Kenneth remained in England, moving south in order to participate in the follow up of the D-Day landings in June 1944. Kenneth is believed to have sailed from Newhaven on 24th June 1944, landing in France 2 days later at or near Graye-sur-Mer. Once ashore the battalion moved inland towards Bayeux and Creully.
An extract from the history of the South Staffordshire Regiment reads:
“In effect, the 8th August 1944 was the end for the 7th South Staffords. Casualties in the Normandy campaign were outstripping the number of reinforcements available and it was decided that the 59th Division would be split up for no other reason than that it was the junior unit. It was no reflection on its fighting qualities, it had fought well, but at the same time it had sustained a high casualty rate. A number of the survivors of the 7th South Stafford’s were transferred to the 6th North Stafford’s for a short while to make the unit up to strength before Major Roberts was to take a composite company from the remnants of 7th South Staffords, which was to fight as a complete sub unit with the 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. He himself was to be awarded the Military Cross and a Mention in Despatches before the end of the war. The Somerset Light Infantry had lost a complete company, which had been captured.”
Kenneth’s service records reveal that for a very short period of time he was indeed part of the 6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment before being transferred to the 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry in August 1944. The regimental diary reveals that the battalion saw action at Nijmegen Bridge on September 21st with Oosterhaut following a day later and Elst, opposite Arnhem, the day after that. Randwijk and Zetten followed on 26th-27th September while the next dates mentioned cover the period October 9th to November 10th when the unit saw action in the vicinity of Groesbeek, Mook and De Horst.
The next phase of fighting commenced on 18th November 1944 after the battalion had moved South and crossed the border into Germany. The 7th Battalion’s first objective was to be the village of Neiderheide, just to the north of the town of Geilenkirchen, the latter being an American force objective. Other units were to secure the nearby villages of Tripsrath, Hochheid, Hoven and Bauchem.
The next day, Hochheid Woods were attacked. Slightly more confused in its inception, this attack was laid on at great speed. Unfortunately, though the eventual aims were completed, the ground conditions and continuous rain took great toll, particularly on the ability to use any form of mechanical transport with which to support the infantry. Enemy fire was also a major problem and casualty numbers were considered to be severe. Nevertheless, this attack succeeded. However, somewhere in the vicinity of Hochheid village, Kenneth Collins received the shrapnel wounds that were to prove fatal. He died of wounds at Hochheid on 20th November 1944.
Additional information courtesy and copyright of Kenneth’s family.
The following report appears in the Bromsgrove Weekly Messenger Saturday 6th January 1945:
WYCHBOLD SOLDIER’S DEATH FROM WOUNDS Pte. K.L. Collins
Pte. Kenneth Lawrence Collins (22), Somerset Light Infantry, who lived with his grandfather, Mr T. Hughes, Stoke Prior Terrace, Wychbold, died of wounds sustained in the fighting in Holland. Pte. Collins was employed by Mr S.T. Gittins, Wychbold, when he volunteered for the Army in 1940. He was educated at Rashwood School. His death has been notified to Mr H.L. Wilton, Chairman of the British Legion, who give help in all such cases.
In the following week’s newspaper under local casualties there is a very small piece stating: Pte. K.L. Collins (22) Somerset Light Infantry, of Wychbold, who, as reported last week, died of wounds in Holland. The report contains a photograph of Kenneth Collins.