Collen, Edwin Henry Hayter (DNB12)

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COLLEN, Sir EDWIN HENRY HAYTER (1843–1911), lieutenant-general, born on 17 June 1843 at Somerset Street, London, was son of Henry Collen, miniature painter, of Holywell Hill, St. Albans, by his wife Helen Dyson. Educated at University College School, Collen passed to Woolwich, and was gazetted lieutenant in the royal artillery on 1 July 1863. He first served in the Abyssinian war of 1867–8, for which he received the medal. After passing through the Staff College with honours, he was transferred to the Indian army in 1873, and attained the rank of captain on 1 July 1875. The efficient manner in which he discharged the duties of secretary of the Indian ordnance commission of 1874 led to his entering the military department of the government of India as assistant-secretary in 1876. The next year Collen acted as deputy assistant quartermaster-general at the Delhi durbar (1 Jan. 1877) when Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India, and in 1878 he was nominated secretary of the Indian army organisation commission. His administrative talents were recognised in the later phases of the second Afghan war of 1880, when as assistant controller-general he was mainly responsible for the smooth and efficient working of the supply and transport system. He was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the medal. Collen's routine work in the military department was interrupted by a short spell of active service. Promoted major on 1 July 1883, he joined the Eastern Soudan expedition of 1885, and served with distinction in the intelligence department and as assistant military secretary to General Sir Gerald Graham [q. v. Suppl. I], He took part in the actions at Tamai (2 April 1885) and Thakul (5 May); he was mentioned in despatches and received the medal with clasp, the bronze star, and the brevet of lieutenant-colonel (15 June 1885). On his return to India Collen was appointed successively accountant-general in 1886, and in the following year military secretary to the government of India, a post he retained for the unusual period of nine years. On 15 June 1889 he became full colonel and in April 1896 succeeded Sir Henry Brackenbury as military member of the governor-general's council. During his administration many improvements were effected in the composition of commands and regiments, in military equipment and mobilisation. The defects in army administration revealed by the South African war of 1899–1902 gave fresh impetus to Collen's activities, but many desirable reforms had to be postponed owing to financial difficulties. In the debate on the budget in the legislative council on 27 March 1901 Collen summarised the measures of army improvements with which he had been connected. The Indian army was being rearmed with the latest weapons; the building of factories for the manufacture of war material had already been begun at Wellington, Kirki and Jabalpur; a scheme for decentralisation had been drawn up and a remount commission established. Fresh drafts of officers were added to the native army and staff corps, and the supply and transport corps thoroughly reorganised. The record showed that 'Collen had left an enduring mark on the personnel, the organisation and the equipment of the Indian army' (Speeches of Lord Curzon, 1902, ii. 265). The reforms inaugurated by Collen were subsequently completed by Lord Kitchener, commander-in-chief in India (1902-9).

Collen was raised to the rank of major-general on 18 Jan. 1900 and of lieutenant-general on 3 April 1905. He was made C.I.E. in 1889, C.B. in 1897, and K.C.I.E. in 1893; he was nominated G.C.I.E. on his retirement in April 1901. In the following May he represented India at the opening of the first parliament of the Australian commonwealth by the duke of Cornwall, now King George V. On his return to England he served as member of the war office regulations committee (1901-4) and as chairman of the Staff College committee of 1904. When the controversy between Lord Curzon and Lord Kitchener on questions of army administration broke out in 1905, Collen actively supported the views of the viceroy as to the wisdom of keeping a military member on the council. A zealous member of the National Service League and of the Essex Territorial Association, he was a frequent speaker and contributor to the press on military subjects. He died on 10 July 1911 at his residence, the Cedars, Kelvedon, Essex.

He married in 1873 Blanche Marie, daughter of Charles Rigby, J.P., of Soldier's Point, Anglesey. She survived him with three sons and a daughter.

In addition to many articles in periodicals Collen published:

  1. 'The British Army and its Reserves,' 1870.
  2. 'The Indian Army: a Sketch of its History and Organisation,' published separately and in ' The Imperial Gazetteer: the Indian Empire,' vol. iv. chap, ix., Oxford, 1907.

[The Times, 12 July 1911; British Empire Review, Sept. 1911: 'R. H. Vetch, Life of Sir Gerald Graham, 1901, p. 465; L. Fraser, India under Lord Curzon and After, 1911, p. 411 seq.; The Imperial Gazetteer, vol. iv. chap, ix., 1907; Speeches of Lord Curzon, 2 vols., 1900-2.]

G. S. W.