Christopher Patrick Ridsdale Collis
1 june 1923 - 12 November 2013
Patrick started his love of the sea in 1938 when he enrolled as a 13 year old cadet at the Nautical College Pangborne, where he distinguished himself by becoming Chief Cadet Captain of College in 1941 and, in 1942 being awarded the Kings Gold Medal.
He was due to join the Merchant Navy but, since the college was also in the Royal Naval Reserve and the country was at war- went straight into the Royal Navy.
His first appointment was to the frigate HMS Danae in Freetown to bring home bullion from the Far East.
Following that appointment he was then posted to the battleship HMS Anson –Flagship of the 2nd battle squadron covering Russian convoys. During one voyage the ship lost contact with escorts and became stuck in pack ice.
Subsequently from 1943 to 1945 he served in HMS Leeds Castle on convoy duties in the North Atlantic and the Eastern Mediterranean- and I guess he perfected his sea legs at that time as Castle class frigates were not noted for their stability!
The following his time in Leeds Castle he was then appointed as navigating officer to HMS Berkeley Castle and HMS St Tudno, returning those vessels from the Mediterranean to the UK for decommissioning.
From 1947 to 1949 he served in the carrier HMS Ocean as a divisional and watch keeping officer. He then renewed his acquaintanship with his old ship HMS Anson, where he was appointed as the training officer for National Service officer cadets. Late in 1949 he joined our latest, and last battleship, HMS Vanguard as a watch keeping and divisional officer.
Two years on in 1951 he was posted to HMS Pincher as First Lieutenant and continued in this post until 1953 when he was appointed to the carrier HMS Triumph as cadet training officer and promoted to Lt Cdr-and this is where our paths first crossed.
He was our divisional officer of forecastle division and it was during our first voyage in 1954 that his organisational and human skills were manifestly shown. We were en route to the UK from the West Indies and had anchored in Cadiz Bay, one day out from Gibraltar, when we when we had an “Operation Immediate” signal telling us to proceed with all despatch to Algiers to embark the survivors of the troopship Empire Windrush, which had caught fire and was sinking in the Mediterranean.
Lt Cdr Collis was in charge of organising facilities to accommodate over 1500 survivors, including 250 women and children.
Following his time in Triumph he stood by as first lieutenant of HMS Salisbury which was then building in Devonport but before her completion he was posted, in 1958, as first Lieutenant to HMS Cavendish-Captain D6 of the 6th destroyer squadron. In October 1959 he was appointed to another carrier HMS Hermes as first lieutenant until 1962 - when he came ashore for the last time on his appointment to HMS Excellent in Portsmouth. Following his spell at HMS Excellent he became the Chief Public Relations officer of the exchange service with the Royal Canadian Navy and then, finally, staff officer plans to the C-in-C channel until 1968 when he retired from the service.
On retiring from the Royal Navy Patrick continued his relationship with the sea in becoming the skipper of the sail training ship the “Winston Churchill”
Following that time he came to Hong Kong where our paths crossed again.
In the 1970’s I was a director of the Hong Kong Outward Bound trust which had a three masted Brigantine, named Ji Fung, and Patrick captained her for several years before finally retiring.
In 2013 the Lord Lieutenant at the Exeter Flotilla Trafalgar Service presented Patrick with the Arctic Star.
Patrick Collis was a man who loved the sea and had the great gift of imparting his knowledge and experience to the younger generations – he is sorely missed.