On 9th December 1915 two brothers from Sherburn decided to ‘take the King’s shilling’ and enlist. Their occupation was described as threshing machine operator, not a skill required by the army. They were the only two sons of coal miner Stephen Collier, a widower with 9 children, who lived in the very poor housing at the Old Chapel Yard (now the site of the Coop).
The younger brother Harold, age 21, joined the West Yorkshire Regiment and after a period of training he moved to France on the 14th June 1916 with 1/6 Battalion which became part of the 49th West Riding Division. He was to see action at the Battle of the Somme at Thiepval Ridge. Surviving that, the went onto the 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917 and the “100 day offensive” between August and November 1918 where he was given the field rank of Lance Corporal (unpaid).
In 1916 the British Army had a height limit of 5ft 2ins for front line soldiers. Herbert the older brother, age 25, was only 5 feet tall and so he was drafted into a labour battalion, the 20th Sherwood Foresters. They were incorporated into the Labour Corps in France in April 1917. The height restriction was later relaxed allowing him to transfer to the Duke of Wellingtons West Riding Regiment 1/7 Battalion which was also part of the 49th Division with which his brother was serving. Herbert was wounded during the Battle of the Lys on the 12th May 1918.
Harold returned home on 7th February 1919 and married Alice Shelton, a war widow in the autumn of that year. They did not have any children and Harold died in 1966 age 72 years.
Herbert recovered from his wounds, transferred to Italy and returned home in 1919. He never married and lived with his sister Doris until his death in 1974.
Both brothers worked as woodsmen in Gascoigne Wood which had been decimated during the war for timber used in the trenches.
With thanks to Ian Wainwright for this research.