Shoreham Fort

Giving History a Future by Bringing History to Life

William “Albert” Collins

William "Albert" Collins in uniform

Albert’s family recently got in contact with me from Canada and kindly sent me this picture that Albert once carried in his wallet along with more very interesting information including the passage below which was from a tape recording of Albert Collins.

There are many people living today who served in the Royal Artillery during Victoria’s glorious reign. It would not be right to leave out the men who worked the guns we have discussed. For this purpose the following chapter is included. Being a tape recording of my Grandfather [Albert Collins b 1875] who served in the 1st Sussex Volunteers in the years 1894 and 1895. Here is his story:-

What was it like in those days?

What a glorious time we ‘ad. Our dress was exactly like the Royal Artillery. Never had no khaki. Our captain was Mister George Dell of Shoreham everyone got on with him. He always used to take us out, march out, smoking concerts we ‘ad. It was jolly good. That – was when the beer was good – when the beer was good and every year we used to have, the artillery had practice and rifle shooting over the fort [at] Kingston. We used to have big gun drills.

The targets used to be on a big tub in the open sea but we didn’t dare hit it but get close to it ‘cos ‘twould do a lot of damage to the tubs. Tubs’a stump up you see and a flag and er…

Our competition with heavy guns, heavy guns, repository drills and horses…repository drills were a bit tough.

Repository drills?

Well we used to tote bloody great ropes about. And we was in a competition in the repository drills at Brighton and ’twas running well, the competition, for a time and one of our chaps made a mis-slip. the gun fell on the ground! So the Sergeant Major he says “Go on, we’ll chance it!” So we bodily lifted the gun up on the wha’s- name and then we’s second from top. The barrel fell off, the piece.

And er…repository drills I used to be number two on the guns, which is more responsible than than any of the others. And I was -load, un-cap fuze, was it? Yes, reload, – I can’t remember – that’s it!

Sergeant Major Ross was a nice old chap he used to drill us at Shoreham.

We used to have a competition over the fort with rifles – carbines they called them then – carbines. I was a recruit then, there were a lot of us, and Mr Ackers’ son of Kingston when he was going across he says to me:

“What’s the good of you going going over here and shootin’ you won’t been have no chance!”

“Why not,” I says “how about you then?”

“Well,” he says “my father’s got a rifle and I very often has a shoot out of it. You wont be no good!”

Anyway I beat him and I was third and he was last! So we had a good chuckle!

Why did you join?

Two year. I don’t know – because I was young and silly!

Why did you leave?

Because he didn’t want to go to camp. He was tied to his mother’s apron strings!


Aw – shut up!!

«General laughter!»

One year we went to Lord Sheffield’s place Sheffield Park, in the armoured train and er.. in the afternoon, no, in the morning rather, they was having practice at Newhaven and they brought the armoured train to Sheffield Park where we was and they was having a practice with the guns – at Sheffield. And one of the chaps put a live shell in the guns and as he was putting it in, one of the chaps notice him says “Take it out you fool! that’s one of them live shells what they been practicing with in Newhaven for the targets!”

Very well, we got over that and we had to go and jump out of the armoured train to fire on [the] enemy down a very steep bank we we’sposed to have killed all them and we heard afterwards that the fuze er… shell what was from, in, one of the carbines, blinded one of the chaps, unfortunately. It was a very sad case.

Anyway we jumped back to the armoured train and you know what soldiers are sometimes, we had a game of cards and we got choked off about that! We had a walk around Lord Sheffield’s place, magnificent place, don’t know what it’s like now. Oh, it was a beautiful place, beautiful waterfalls, it was splendid.

The armoured train was like one of those things that carry timber on trains, only covered in, sheet steel, slits for carbines. Special wagons for the guns like these things they carry timber on, see, only they weren’t so long as what they are. Guns fixed on them – we manhandled the guns with ropes. Heavy work it was.

Well, ther’s my life story in the Volunteers. And I’d like to see the old times come back again, things was far more amusing to what they are in the present day!