Tag Archives: Colliers Wood

Private Fred Lee

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 13th October 1944, page 1

South London Too Quiet

Pte. Lee from Arnhem

Narrow Escape in Wood

Wants to Return to the Front

Pte. Fred Lee, man of Arnhem, only son of Mr and Mrs F.J. Lee, Dinton Road, Colliers Wood, made his first airplane landing when he arrived in this country from Holland.

He has been airborne scores of times, but each time his descent was made by parachute. First it opened over English fields, then over enemy territory in Italy; on D-Day it flowered over Normandy, and a few weeks later was among the first to open over Holland for the attack at Arnhem. So the journey home held a new experience for Skyman Lee, who is now spending seven days leave at home. Airborne operations and leaping into space from a racing airplane is all in the day’s work to Pte. Lee, who is now spending denying that, says he is only one of many carrying out a job he has been trying to do.

His one desire to return to the front for more fighting, for he finds life in South London too quiet. Too quiet in all ways but one. There are too many visitors to his house, too many people who wish to call him hero. Much of his life has been spent in avoiding them. On Sunday he went to early Mass to avoid the crowds. He does not wear his uniform, and one day, wearing a dressing gown, himself told a caller that Pte. Lee was not at home!


Last week the “News” told how Pte. Lee’s photograph, taken in a slit trench at Arnhem, had appeared in almost every national newspaper. Pte. Lee spent three days without a break in a trench, but was, he told a friend fairly comfortable, for when our planes dropped supplies by parachute he was able to secure three canisters with their parachutes. These he used to cover in the trench so that he and his companions managed to keep fairly dry.

He collected enough water in containers to have a shave each of the three days.


Many of the German soldiers fighting against them were badly clothed, and, unlike our own men, who are trained to think quickly and act on their own initiative, the Germans were slow to act when separated from their leaders. As usual, they played foul, and used hospital grounds, which were supposed to be neutral.

Pte. Lee had a narrow escape when he came on a group of Germans in a wood. Seeing their figures creeping through the trees towards him, he stepped, quick as lightning behind a tree, and shot at them. One of them fell, but the others, instead of taking cover, looked around to see where the bullets were coming from. The poor spirit of some of the men was indicated by the behaviour of a bunch of 300 prisoners who were guarded by a handful of our men with a few Sten guns, most of which were out of order.

Pte. Lee was in a Dutch house, where he found quantities of luxury foods and wines. A German officer had been living there. The paratroopers had a good meal, and to the question of the Dutch who lived in the house, as to when Dempsey’s men were to arrive, they replied “Tomorrow.”


“We kept hoping that reliefs would succeed in getting through to us.

Now all we want is to get back to have another crack at those Germans,” he said.

For more on Fred Lee, see his entry on the ParaData website.

Note that, at the time, Dinton Road, Colliers Wood, was part of the Borough of Mitcham.

1924 : Fireman Aged 7

From the Belfast Telegraph – Tuesday 05 February 1924, via the British Newspaper Archives. which requires a subscription.


When Mitcham Fire Brigade turned out yesterday people in the streets were amused to see following at a long distance behind the engine a smaller fire tender complete in every detail pedalled by a very small boy fully equipped as a regular fireman. It was a model exact in every detail — just a third the size of the Mitcham motor tender and escape — made by Fireman A. Palmer Riley, of the Mitcham Brigade, for his 7-year-old son, Alexander, who is as keen as his father on fire engines and fire brigade work. This was young Alec’s first appearance with his wonderful machine.

His father, who is a master plumber and sanitary engineer at Collier’s Wood, later told a “Daily News” correspondent — “My son is a born fireman and runs after fire engines wherever be sees one. He continually worried me with questions, so in my spare time I made him an engine, or rather a tender for himself. I finished it on Saturday. It is an exact scale model of the Mitcham tender, minus the driving engine. It is made of wood, steel, and brass, the rod work being old gas tubing. A steel tank inside it will hold two gallons of water and what is called a first aid supply.

“A five foot escape is on top, two chemical extinguishers at the rear made out of salt tins, and a complete tool outfit and hose piping are carried. Two electric headlights and a searchlight and a resounding brass warning bell, all made by myself, are other main features.”

Alec wears a brass helmet and axe, also made by his father, and a full fireman’s uniform made by his mother. Mr. Riley is a remarkable fireman. He speaks French fluently, and understands modern Greek, Italian and Spanish. For years he travelled as a highly skilled craftsman in all the countries of Europe for big London firms.

From Ancestry.com:

1911 Census

Alexander Palmer Riley, aged 32, was living at 10 Park Road, Colliers Wood with his wife Alice Gertrude, 29, and their daughter Alice Eileen, aged 2. His occupation was listed as Plumber Gas and Hot Water Fitter.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers

On 16th October 1917 he is listed as a Regimental Sergeant Major, residing at the Holborn Military Hospital.

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations)

He died in 1962 leaving £2,664. His address was 2 Glebe Path, Mitcham.

See also report on a fire in 1932