3rd and 55th Battalions
Serial Number: 2808
Date/Place of Birth: 19 November 1892, Penrith NSW
Date/Place of Death: 1 September 1918, Peronne France
Biographical details: 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 Honor Roll in Memory Park and on the St Stephen’s Honor Roll.
National Archives of Australia Search: B2455, COLLESS S
Acknowledgment: The photo of Stan Colless is courtesy of the Penrith City Library Photographic Collection.
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
Lieut. Stan Colless, D.C.M. In the recent lists of awards to Australian soldiers for gallantry on the battlefield, it is noted that Lieut 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. Lieut 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, attestive 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-commissional 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 valor 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 their’s in the possession of an award gained by their son, whose value, from the viewpoint of all the hallowed impulses and ideals it represents – succor 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 “woolclasser” 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.
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.
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 their’s 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 Lieut 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.
Late Lieut 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.