Shoreham’s First World War signalman remembered

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Signalman Cecil Harold Seymour Collis, Royal Navy (1899 – 1917)

One of the names on Shoreham’s War Memorial is that of Cecil Harold Seymour Collis, who gave his life in the First World War.

Although his first name was Cecil, he was always known by his family and friends as Harold.

He was born in Brighton in 1899, but his father, Arthur Collis, died just three months later.

By 1915, Harold’s mother had remarried and, with her new husband, was running the Star Inn, at 16 High Street, Shoreham.

In June, 1915, Harold enlisted for boy service in the Royal Navy and was posted to HMS Ganges, in Suffolk, for training.

The following year, Harold joined his first ship – HMS Newcastle (a cruiser) – and in June, 1917, he was posted to HMS Cardiff (another cruiser) which was then flagship of the 6th Cruiser Squadron.

When he celebrated his 18th birthday the following month, he immediately signed on for a 12-year engagement and soon became qualified as a signalman.

Four months later – on November 17, 1917 – HMS Cardiff was leading the 6th Cruiser Squadron on a foray into the Heligoland Bight when the British vessels were engaged by a number of German warships.

During the ensuing battle, HMS Cardiff was struck by four 5.9 inch shells and Harold was killed.

His body was buried at sea later that day.

Harold’s service to his country is commemorated by an inscription on the Royal Naval War Memorial at Portsmouth, and on memorials at Shoreham and Brighton.

The bronze Memorial Plaque, which was presented to Harold’s next-of-kin after the war, now hangs proudly in his nephew’s house in Wiltshire.