Colin featured in the Somme Poets exhibition held at The Wilfred Owen Story in 2016 but we could not find a photograph of him. Now we have – with many thanks to Catherine Avak.
Born in Mere in Wiltshire in September 1890, Colin was the youngest of eight children – six boys and two girls. Colin’s father, John Thomas Mitchell was a farmer, and his mother was Emma Jane Mitchell, nee Parsons.
Colin was educated at Shaftesbury Grammar School as a boarder. While there, he won a prize fo...r English Literature. He was interested in amateur dramatics and music and on leaving school became a bank clerk.
Colin joined the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade during the First World War and was killed in action on 22nd March 1918. The 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (together with the 7th and 9th battalions) was part of the 41st Brigade of the 14th (Light) Division of XV Corps which saw action at Ypres and on The Somme. At the time of his death, Colin was a Sergeant. Colin is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in Ovillers-la-Boiselle, France and in Mere Cemetery in Wiltshire.
Colin’s poetry collection was entitled ‘Trampled Clay’ and was published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London.
He also had a poem included in ‘The Malory Verse Book’ edited by Editha Jenkinson and published by Erskine Macdonald in 1919.
Source: Catherine W. Reilly, ‘English Poetry of the First World RememberiWar: A Bibliography’ (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978.
Additional Information kindly supplied by Mere Museum and Historical Society.
HOOGE: (JULY 31st 1915)
Hooge! More damned than Sodom and more bloody,
‘Twas there we faced the flames of liquid fire.
Hooge! That shambles where the flames swept ruddy:
A spume of heat and hate and omens dire;
A vision of a concrete hell from whence
Emerged satanic forms, or so it seemed
To us who, helpless, saw them hasten hence.
Scarce understood we if we waked or dreamed.
“Stand To! Stand To! The Wurtembergers come!”
Shouting vile English oaths with gutter zest.
And boastful threats to kill they voice, while some,
In uniforms of grey and scarlet dressed,
Wear flame-projectors strapped upon their backs.
How face a wall of flame? Impossible!
“Back, boys! Give way a little; take the tracks
That lead to yonder wood, and there we’ll fill
Such trenches as are dug, and face the foe,
And no Hell-fire shall move us once we’re there.
We’re out to win or die, boys; if we go
Back and yet back, leaving good strongholds bare,
We’ll save our lives, perhaps, but not our name.
There’s no one in this well-trained company
Who’d save his skin and perjure his good fame.”
We hold the wood, but, oh, how can it be?
The shells are raining down amidst the trees,
Snapping the full-girthed trunks that downward crash
In dire proximity to us. The breeze
Bespeaks hot human blood. The scarlet splash
Shows everywhere, and everywhere the maimed
Are crawling, white-lipped, to a dug-out where
The doctor in a drip of sweat seems framed,
So hard he works to hide the horrid stare
Of wounds adrip; while many pass away,
And need no lint to bind their frailty,
For God has ta'en them; 'tis their triumph day,
And all their sins shall expiated be.
Thus are we thrown in Life's great melting-pot,
Humanity much matrixed; but the ore,
Looms purer when the crucible is hot:
'Tis on this truth that we should set our store