Stanley COLLESS MC, DCM

Poppy

COLLESS, Stanley

Service Number: 2808
Enlisted: 19 June 1915, Liverpool, New South Wales
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 55th Infantry Battalion
Born: Penrith, New South Wales, Australia, 19 November 1892
Home Town: Penrith, Penrith Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: Penrith Superior Public School, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Wool classer
Died: GSW head, France, 1 September 1918, aged 25 years
Cemetery: Herbecourt British Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

19 Jun 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2808, Liverpool, New South Wales
30 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2808, 3rd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
30 Sep 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2808, 3rd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Argyllshire, Sydney
13 Feb 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, 55th Infantry Battalion
20 Feb 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Sergeant, 55th Infantry Battalion
31 May 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 55th Infantry Battalion
3 Aug 1916: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, Mont St Quentin / Peronne, Recommended for Distinguished Conduct Medal – 3rd August, 1916 Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal – 22nd September, 1916 He kept the teams of two guns working in the enemy’s second line, from which he was finally driven out by overwhelming bombing parties of the enemy. By his fine example, he kept the team steady, and covered the retreat of the company, this saving many casualties.
23 Aug 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 55th Infantry Battalion
9 Feb 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 55th Infantry Battalion
10 Mar 1918: Honoured Military Cross, Military Cross Recommended for Military Cross – 10th March, 1918 Awarded Military Cross – 24th December, 1918 'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in a raid on the enemy's trenches. Strong opposition was encountered and as he led the final rush his party came under heavy machine gun fire. He attacked the gun with his party, and captured it, taking two of the gun team prisoners and inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy garrison. His men were attacked from the flank as they withdrew, but with seven men he covered the withdrawal of the remainder, causing further losses to the enemy. Owing to his splendid leadership and coolness the raiding party returned, having suffered only two casualties.'
1 Sep 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 55th Infantry Battalion, Mont St Quentin / Peronne

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Biography contributed by Carol Mott

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2808  Lieutentant  Stanley Colless DCM, MC

 

 COLLESS, Stanley MC DCM
Published on March 6, 2012 by mick in 3rd Battalion, 55th Battalion, Known

Stanley Colless

Biography – Courtesy Ian Gibbs 

2808, Lieutenant Stanley Colless MC DCM


3rd Battalion AIF

55th Battalion AIF

Recommended for Distinguished Conduct Medal – 3rd August, 1916

Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal – 22nd September, 1916

Citation:

He kept the teams of two guns working in the enemy’s second line, from which he was finally driven out by overwhelming bombing parties of the enemy.  By his fine example, he kept the team steady, and covered the retreat of the company, this saving many casualties.
Recommended for Military Cross – 10th March, 1918

Awarded Military Cross – 24th December, 1918

Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in a raid on the enemy’s trenches. Strong opposition was encountered and as he led the final rush his party came under heavy machine gun fire. He attacked the gun with his party, and captured it, taking two of the gun team prisoners and inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy garrison. His men were attacked from the flank as they withdrew, but with seven men he covered the withdrawal of the remainder, causing further losses to the enemy. Owing to his splendid leadership and coolness the raiding party returned, having suffered only two casualties.
Killed in Action – 1st September, 1918
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ADFA Database

National Archives – Service Record

Australian War Graves Record

Further Reading – 3rd Battalion AIF

Stanley Colless was born at Penrith on 19 November 1892, the son of Henry and Elizabeth Jane Colless (nee Jordan). He received his school  at the Penrith Superior Public School.   After leaving school he was employed as a wool classer by A W Davis and Company at Liverpool.  Colless was a keen sportsman, and played cricket and football.  He was also a member of a rifle club and won a number of prizes in shooting competitions.   Stan’s brother George enlisted on 22 August 1915 with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Service details: Colless enlisted on 19 June 1915 and was assigned to the 9th reinforcements, 3rd Battalion with the rank of Sergeant.  Colless left Sydney on 30 September 1915, aboard HMAT Argyllshire.

After several months in Egypt, Colless was promoted to Sergeant-Major and was trained in the operation of the Lewis Gun.   In February 1916, Henry John Burrows (Jack) mentioned in a letter to his mother that he had seen a number of Penrith soldiers including Stan Colless. He sailed for the Western Front in March 1916. During the battle of Fromelles (19-20th July 1916), Colless was singled out for mention by Captain N Gibbons , CO B Company “Sergeant Colless doing good work- my officers also of course.  Would like you to say something to his man.  He is doing splendid work.”

In September 1916, Colless was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his bravery during the battle of Fromelles “in keeping the teams of two guns working on the enemy’s second line, from which he was finally driven out by overwhelming bombing parties of the enemy.  He covered the retreat of the company with unfaltering courage and coolness preventing many casualties.”  Colless was also promoted to Lieutenant and spent time as an instructor at the Lewis Gun School in England.  He returned to the Western Front and took part in a number of battles.  Colless was awarded the Military Cross after he led a raid which resulted in the destruction of German “Pill Boxes” and the capture of German machine guns.  Colless was killed about 10 am on 1 September 1918.  Statements from men in the battalion state that he was killed near the sugar factory, to the right of Mont St Quentin during the battle for Peronne.

Memorial details: Colless’ name is commemorated on Memorial Panel 160, 627 Hebecourt British Cemetery, France, on the Penrith Honour Roll in Memory Park and on the St Stephen’s Honour Roll.

Nepean Times 16 September 1916, p2

Lieut. Stan Colless, D.C.M.   Word has been received by the parents of Lieut. Stan Colless (viz., Mr and Mrs H Colless of North Street, Penrith) that their gallant son has been awarded the D.C.M. for gallantry in action during recent operations on the Western Front.  Lieut. Colless, who had been promoted to his present rank on the field from that of Sergeant-Major, enlisted some 16 months ago, and since leaving for the seat of war has seen much service both in Egypt and France.   That he would comport himself with true Australian valour was never doubted by his many friends at Penrith, who, while delighted at his obtaining the prized D.C.M., are not really surprised that one of the grit and resolution of Stan. Colless had gained such deserved distinction.

Nepean Times 30 September 1916, p4 c5

Lt. Stan Colless, D.C.M.    In the recent lists of awards to Australian soldiers for gallantry on the battlefield, it is noted that Lt Stan Colless (mention of whose promotion on the battlefield from rank of Sergt-Major to that of Lieutenant was made in our last issue) was awarded the D.C.M. for his bravery “in keeping the teams of two guns working on the enemy’s second line, from which he was finally driven out by overwhelming bombing parties of the enemy.  He covered the retreat of the company with unfaltering courage and coolness preventing many casualties.”  Penrith will, naturally, hail with pride the heroism of one of his gallant native scions, who has so splendidly maintained the martial prestige of his country as in the above noted instance.  Lt Colless who is the third son of Mr and Mrs H Colless of North Street, has been on the Western Front for some five months.

Nepean Times 27 January 1917, p4 c7

For Heroism on the Field:  In connection with the awarding of the D.C.M. to Sergeant Stanley Colless youngest son of Mr and Mrs H Colless, North Street, Penrith (reference to which has earlier appeared in the Nepean Times) we have much pleasure in publishing the following letter, attentive of the gallantry of Sergeant Colless, and descriptive of the “hot corner” in which he earned so deservedly the coveted D.C.M., during operations on the Western Front in September 1916.  The letter to Mrs Colless (mother of the hero), was signed by Major J M Lean, officer-in-charge Base Records Melbourne, and runs as follows:
“Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence (Base Records’ Office, AIF), Melbourne, 15 January, 1917. Dear Madam – I have much pleasure in forwarding herewith copy of extract from first supplement, No 29760 to the “London Gazette,” of 22nd September, 1916, relating to the conspicuous bravery rendered by your son, No 2808, Sergeant S Colless, 55th Battalion.

“Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal; His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the distinguished conduct medal to the undermentioned non-commissioned officer for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty in the field:-No 2808, Sergeant Stanley Colless, for conspicuous gallantry during operations.  He kept the teams of two guns working in the enemy’s second line, from which he was finally driven out by overwhelming bombing parties of the enemy.  By his fine example, he kept the team steady, and covered the retreat of the company, this saving many casualties.”
Sergeant Colless has since been promoted to Lieutenant.

Nepean Times 10 February 1917, p3 c1


Award of Valour:  Mr and Mrs H Colless, of North Street, Penrith, have received from their gallant son (Lieut. Stan Colless) the D.C.M. medal awarded him by the King for conspicuous valour on the field of battle (Western Front), and for which act of gallantry the recipient – then Sergeant – was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, thus gaining his commission on the field – a rare and glorious distinction.  The heroic Lieutenant forwarded the medal home to his parents for safe-keeping, and we heartily congratulate them, with patriotic pride, which, we feel assured, we share in common with all citizens of Penrith and district, on the sacred pleasure and glowing parental feeling which is theirs in the possession of an award gained by their son, whose value, from the viewpoint of all the hallowed impulses and ideals it represents – succour of liberty, home, faith, nationhood and the arts of civilization – is truly priceless and beyond estimation.

Nepean Times 16 March 1918, p3 c4

Raid by Australians: Penrith Boy Mentioned:  Mr Gordon Gilmour, special correspondent of the Australian and New Zealand Press Association in a dispatch last week from the Western Front dealing with two raids carried out at Warneton, France, by the Australians, makes particular reference regarding a Penrith boy (an officer) and in the last issue of the “Sydney Sun” a similar story is published from the pen of that paper’s representative, and styles the officer as a “wool classer” from Sydney.  Taking the two articles together it would appear that the officer referred to is Lieut. Stan Colless, son of Mr and Mrs H Colless, of Penrith, who was recently decorated with the D.C.M.

Mr Gilmour’s despatch is as follows – Hardly had the guns settled down to sleep, when the Germans retaliated in a small way further north.  Our guns came down heavily within a few seconds but the Boches succeeded in approaching within speaking distance of an advance post where there were about 20 men, who energetically bombed them back.
I have a vivid first hand description of the previous night’s raid by New South Wales men, still farther north in the same sector, simultaneous with the first raid against Warneton.  A young Penrith officer, who earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal as a sergeant at Fromelles, chose a score of boys from a unit, the whole of which volunteered. They stole out and effectively dealt with three pill boxes, which they found the Germans gamely defending, one gun crew actually firing a machine-gun atop the pill-box.  The officer worked round behind, and shot two with his revolver.  Meanwhile the lads approaching from the front accounted for the others, tackling two with their fists, finally killing them.
One prisoner was taken.  He was brought in weeping, but the Australians gave him cocoa and toast.

The most exciting incident of the raid occurred when returning with the real work completed.  The raiders met eight Germans approaching from the flank.  A German rushed up and dealt the officer a blow in the face, knocking out his teeth.  The officer shot him with his revolver in the stomach, while the boys bombed the remainder in three seconds.  The German barrage prevented them from returning to the original point, but the officer, knowing No-man’ land as well as his own home garden, promptly led his party safely out.
A youngster named “Curly from Coolamon” is believed to have scored the greatest amount of scalps.  The officer explained that himself, Curly, and two others among the raiders had lost brothers in the war, and were taking every opportunity of revenge.  The party is elated at their exploit, and declare they will follow their officer anywhere.

Nepean Times 14 September 1918, p3 c7

With the Heroic Dead: Lieut. Stan Colless, DCM, MC, Killed in Action:  Mr and Mrs H Colless, of North Street, Penrith, received the sad tidings on Thursday night (through Rev N M Lloyd) of the death in action of their youngest son, Lieut. Stan Colless, DCM, MC.  Details of the late heroic officer’s life and brave deeds whilst in France will be published next week.  The sympathy of the whole community goes out to the bereaved parents and family.

Nepean Times 21 September 1918, p2 c2

Fallen Heroes: Lieut. Stanley Colless, DCM, MC:  The war continues to take its toll of victims from amongst the brave lads of this district who entered the ranks in defence of the Empire’s freedom and liberties.  The list continues to steadily grow, and already many of the best and most promising of our young manhood have paid the supreme penalty.  This week it is again our painful duty to add further to the long list, and we feel sure the deepest sympathy of the public is with the bereaved relatives of the fallen soldiers – Lieutenant Stanley Colless, DCM, MC, Sgt Frank Abbott, and Corporal Henry John (Jack) Burrows.
The three soldiers were members of the Church of England, and the news of their death was sent through Rev N M Lloyd (acting Rector of St Stephens). News of Lieutenant Colless’ death came through on Thursday, and Sgt Abbott’s and Corporal Burrows’ on Saturday.   Out of respect for the three men, who have given their lives that we here in Australia may live in peace and comfort, the Dead March in Saul was played at the conclusion of service on Sunday morning at St Stephen’s by the organist (Mr E W Orth), and as the congregation left the Church the bell was tolled. Last week-end was indeed a sad one for Penrith.  News of the death of these three well-known lads, each of   fine physique and genial personality, coming together being a keen blow to residents.  But what of the parents and families of these fallen heroes- the nerve-racking strain that was theirs for so long, the ever longing thought of their safe return home, and then – the news of their death.  We who have not had this brought home to us cannot realise the feeling of a mother, or a father, sister or brother, who have lost a dear one – sometimes two and three – in battle.  We trust it will be a consolation to the deceased soldiers’ parents and family circles in their anguish of spirit at their demise, to know that they died heroically, serving the cause of their God, their country and civilization, and that their names will be immortally engraved on the glorious annals of Australia’s noblest heroes.

The late Lieutenant Stanley Colless was born at Penrith on 19th November. 1892, being a son of Mr and Mrs Henry Colless, of North Street.  As a boy he was educated at the Penrith Superior Public School, under the headmastership of Mr J H Smith, and later Mr G W Steinbeck.  After leaving school he was engaged as a wool classer by Messrs A W Davis and Co at Liverpool, where he remained up till the time of his enlistment for active service, June 19th, 1915.  He sailed from Australia on 30th September that year, with the 9th Reinforcements, 3rd Battalion, being then a Sergeant.  After some months in Egypt, where he was promoted to Sergt-Major and where he was trained in the School of Instruction for Lewis Gun work, receiving a special pass in that capacity, he sailed for France.  He was amongst the first of the Australians to go to France in March 1916.   Later, for conspicuous bravery in covering the retreat of infantry with a Lewis Machine Gun, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.  This medal he sent home to his parents soon after he received it, and is now one of their treasured possessions.  For a time he filled the position of instructor of the Lewis Gun in England, but eventually returned to France and took part in a number of battles.  As a raider he was very keen and daring, and many of his brave exploits will never be recorded.  In a raid led by him, in connection with the destruction of “Pill Boxes”, and in which a number of Germans were killed and machine guns captured or destroyed, Lieut. Colless was awarded the Military Cross.   When last he wrote – a letter which, by the way, was received by his parents the day after they had been informed of his death – he was training a section of the American Army.  He spoke very highly of the Americans.  The telegram received from the military authorities simply stated that Lieut. Stanley Colless DCM. MC had been killed in action on September 1st, 1918.  While in England on several occasions, the late Lt Colless met his brother George (also a Penrith native), who is in the Canadian Forces and on duty in England.  The late heroic officer was of a most genial disposition, and well liked by all.  He was a keen sportsman, being associated whilst in Penrith with the cricket, football and rifle clubs, and succeeded in winning a number of prizes in connection with the latter.

Nepean Times 18 Jan 1919 p4,c2

Late Lt Stan Colless, DCM, MC
Mrs H Colless of North Street Penrith has received the following letter:-
5th Australian Division, Headquarters, 7th November 1918.  Dear Mrs Colless, – I want to tell you how deeply I deplore the death of your gallant son, who, as you have already been informed, fell in the field on 1st of September last.  At the time he met his death he was bravely leading his men in the attack on Peronne.  He was killed instantly by a machine gun bullet, and he has been buried in the Hebecourt Cemetery.   Lieutenant Colless rendered exceptionally fine service while with this Division.   On many occasions he distinguished himself, particularly at Fromelles – when he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal – in July, 1916; and at Wytschaete early in this year, when he was awarded the Military Cross.  His gallantry and devotion to duty gained for him promotion to commissioned rank in the field.  Such an officer is indeed hard to replace.  With you late son’s comrades, by whom he was highly esteemed, I deeply sympathise with you in your great loss.  I can only hope that the memory of the splendid example which he set, and the great service he rendered to the Empire and the cause of humanity may be some consolation to you in your sorrow. – Yours sincerely, J Talbot Hobbs, Major-General, Commanding 5th Australian Division.

Note: The Colless family owned the Nepean Times in Penrith.

Picture and Information Source – Ian Gibbs

 

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THE PEOPLE OF ANZAC

Posted by Travis Longmore

 

Today I stood with hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders to commemorate ANZAC day but for the first time in my life I did it in another country. I found myself in Washington D.C. and the Australian Embassy put on a wonderful tribute to the men and women of our armed forces. Talking with Americans you get this incredible sense of pride and respect for their military that seems deeper than what I’ve felt in my own country, but I get the sense that is changing not only for me but the entire nation. The stories that have come from the battles that shaped our nation have had more of an impact on me than I thought they ever would.

I wanted to learn more about my families role in our military so I turned to my Uncle, Mark Adams to share some of his research into our side of the family. I don’t want to forget what sacrifices others have gone through to give me the opportunity to stand as a free man in a country so far away. So please take just a few minutes to learn more about an incredible man who also happens to make me proud to call him a relative.

In my Uncle’s words:

Its 100 years now since that first ANZAC Day yet its memory and significance does not dull with the passing of the years. In fact its presence seems to glow more brightly as the years pass by.

For Australia, World War 1 was a coming of age, it was almost like our country needed to be blooded in battle before it could truly claim our identity. In those 4 years our troops incurred a 50% casualty rate– the highest of any allied country in WW1 and 66,000 Australians died.

To put that figure into context, in today’s terms that would represent 300,000 killed and 750,000 wounded. Over I,000,000 casualties in total. Try to imagine the affect for any country suffering 1,000,000 casualties today. It is said we lost a whole generation in those 4 years. Not just anyone but the very best that our fledgling country could produce.

There was scarcely a family that wasn’t affected and with their dead laying half a world away war memorials sprang up all over the country. To this day you would be hard pressed to find any Australian city, town or village where a statue of a WW1 digger, head bowed doesn’t stand in testimony to a nations grief; and to this day on April 25th Australians gather in the pre-dawn darkness at the feet of that bowed digger to remember.

Our family was like so many others – our young men rushed to join up for the ‘great adventure’. In fact around 133 of our extended family served in WW1. Of those 39 were killed. Think about that for a moment – 133 members of our family enlisted and almost 1 in 3 died – countless others were wounded. Our family like our country suffered over 50% casualties.

I try to imagine what the loss of those 39 men meant for our family. Four generations on if each of those 39 men had married there would be around 1000 extra members of our family today. Who would those 1000 have been? Doctors, teachers, farmers, labourers? Maybe a future Prime Minister was in their ranks, maybe someone who could find a cure for cancer, maybe just everyday people – we will never know what our family and our country lost.

 Stanley Colless

One of those 39 was my cousin Stan Colless. Stan was born on the 19th November 1892 in Penrith, just west of Sydney. Stan worked as a wool classer and was a keen sportsman and a crack shot, winning several shooting competitions at the local rifle club. Stan enlisted on the 19th June 1915, not quite two months after that first Anzac Day – perhaps he was encouraged to join by the news from Gallipoli or perhaps he was one of those looking for that ‘grand adventure’.

Three months later on the 30th September the now Sergeant Stan Colless sailed from Australia on HMAT Argyllshire as part of the 9th reinforcements for the 3rd Battalion. In March 1916, after several months in Egypt Stan, newly promoted to Sergeant Major sailed for the Western Front.

In July 1916 Stan took part in the terrible Battle of Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) in France. In 24 short hours Australia lost 5500 men killed and wounded – the greatest single loss we have ever suffered. Little wonder it is still described as our ‘darkest day’.

I can’t begin to imagine what those 24 hours in July were like but somehow Stan survived that slaughter. In September 1916 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Fromelles the citation for his award read:

“His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the distinguished conduct medal to the undermentioned non-commissioned officer for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty in the field:-No 2808, Sergeant Stanley Colless, for conspicuous gallantry during operations. He kept the teams of two guns working in the enemy’s second line, from which he was finally driven out by overwhelming bombing parties of the enemy. By his fine example, he kept the team steady, and covered the retreat of the company, this saving many casualties.” As a result of this action Stan was given the rare honour of being promoted in the field to Lieutenant.

Following his promotion Stan went onto to fight in a number of other battles until he was sent to England to serve as instructor on the Lewis gun. It wasn’t long however before he was back in the thick of battle winning a Military Cross in early 1918 at Wytschaete for attacking and taking 3 German pillboxes killing several enemy in the process.

In the early hours of the 1st of September 1918, just two months before wars end Stan took part in the Battle of Mont St Quentin. He was killed by a machine gun bullet to the head, leading his men in the attack on the township of Peronne. He was just 25 years old. One soldier later wrote “Never before had I experienced such a volume of fire”. After all he had been trough he only need to survive for another 8 weeks.

 

Stanley Colless Headstone

 Stan was buried in Herbecourt Cemetery where he has lain for 97 years. Last year my daughter found him and placed a flag upon his grave, the first family member to stand by his side in nearly a century. She wept for one of 66000 futures lost.

 

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WW1 Medals

 

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