Mr Sidney Clarence Stuart Collett was born in Hampstead, London, England on 8 June 1887.
He was the son of Mawbey Ernest Collett (1851-1922), a coach ironmonger, and Ann Pinfold, née Casely (1849-1939), natives of Clerkenwell and Essex, respectively.
His father had first been married in 1876 to Elizabeth Alice Stare (b. May 1854) from Southampton and through this marriage Sidney had six half-siblings: Alice Mawbey (1876-1878), Ernest Henry (1878-1945), Herbert Victor (1879-1896), William Melville (1881-1908), Harold John (b. 1883) and Percy Alexander (1884-1950).
Following his first wife's death in December 1884, not long after the birth of their son Percy, Mawbey remarried in 1885 to Ann Pinfold, the young widow of Frederick Pinfold (1852-1879). Sidney was the second of their five children and his siblings were: Thomas Alfred Fletcher (1886-1964), Violet Amelia (1888-1959)1, Daisy Ann (1891-1952) and Lily Elizabeth (1892-1974)(2).
Sidney first appears on the 1891 census living with his family at 5 Estelle Road, Kentish Town, London. He first attended Fleet Road School and on 5 October 1896 he became a pupil at Yerbery Road School in Upper Holloway. By the time of the 1901 census the family home was 68 St John's Road, Upper Holloway. A pious young man, the 1911 census describes Sidney as an un-denominational Evangelist and as a visitor to an address in East Hall, Rainham, Essex, the home of farmer James Vellacott and his family.
Sidney's parents had migrated and settled in Port Byron, New York around 1910 where his father became a pastor for the First Baptist Church; other siblings had made the move ahead of him and his brother Thomas was a student at Syracuse University; it became Sidney's intention of joining them there.
Collett had originally intended to book passage on the St. Louis but was too late in booking to secure a berth. He then attempted to sail on the Philadelphia but that voyage was cancelled due to the coal strike and his passage was then moved to the Titanic. He travelled by train from Waterloo with his uncle Sidney Collett and boarded in Southampton on the morning of 10 April as a second-class passenger (ticket number 28034 which cost £10, 10s). He brought with him the family possessions that had not previously been brought to America by other members of the family, including a valuable library, family documents and a considerable amount of money.
The day before sailing Collett had mailed a letter to his mother from London containing a second sealed envelope that was self-addressed. The first letter instructed his father and mother that should anything unforeseen happen to him during his journey to them they should open the second envelope.
Sidney was seen off at Southampton by his uncle Sidney Collett and an aunt. Just before departure, Stuart would later explain, his aunt instructed him to look after Marion Wright, a young lady who was travelling alone to join her fiancé. According to him, “…since I became her protector, she playfully suggested that in order that I might not make love to her she get another friend as our companion.” This companion was Kate Buss and he took both ladies into his charge.
Just as we were aboard and after it was impossible for me to go ashore again I saw my aunt beckoning rigorously to me and turned in the direction she indicated. I saw a young lady looking at me and I looked at her. It was Miss Wright and she was coming to New York to meet her lover and in this manner she was as it were, put into my charge. Then we sped on our way and there was more trouble. The suction of our boat drew the stern of the New York toward us and her stern and our stern were rushing together when a tug caught the New York and towed her to her moorings. We passed Cherbourg and Queenstown and on Thursday afternoon I took my last look and bade farewell to the old country. Everything was going finely. On Sunday morning we had our first service, an Episcopalian service and the chaplain read from the 13th Corinthians, I believe. - The Auburn Citizen, 23 April 1912
He recalled the hymn services aboard the ship:
Miss Wright ... sang There Are Green Hills Far Away, and For Those in Peril At Sea. At the request of Mr. Carter we also sang Now the Day Is Over and in closing sang: Stand Up For Jesus. I remember that because we had no music so I led the singing. ‘Now give us five minutes of the Gospel,’ I said to Rev. Carter and so the meeting closed, and I am sure that everybody enjoyed it.” - The Auburn Citizen, 23 April 1912
Before going to bed on Sunday 14 April Collett had enjoyed supper with an unidentified young man from Guernsey. He had been in bed only ten minutes when the collision occurred, describing the impact as "two heavy throbs":
I jumped up, put on light clothing and went up on deck. The steam was blowing with a deafening noise. I did not see the iceberg myself. I talked to the officers and the Captain ordered us to get the ladies. I ran down, got more clothing and went to Miss Wright. She had got up and was out on the deck.
Up on deck, possibly A-deck, Collett again encountered his friend from Guernsey but the man crossed to the other side of the ship and he never saw him again. He later entered lifeboat 9:
There were no more women to go and I asked the officer if there was any objection to my going in that boat. He said ‘No, get in’ and I was the last one in. I think it was the third from the last to go on that side. It was No. 9 and we had to get away fast. Besides other boats going down there was danger from the sinking boat. I cannot describe the sinking in any other way than to say that it was like the noise from a football field, not loud like a shout of victory, but hushed as though there was canvas over it... There were two loud noises as she went down. It was like as if all the cargo went from one side of the ship to the other all at once. It may have been bursting of the boilers or the vessel breaking itself in two. I don’t know. It seemed to me that we all should go down. As she sank I saw her looming up more clearly just as on a lantern slide when they are bringing a picture into focus. - The Auburn Citizen, 23 April 1912
Collett later attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio with intentions of entering the Rochester Theological Seminary upon completion of his course. Being a lone Briton and slightly older than his peers he kept very much to himself; in June 1913 his timid demeanour led to him being hazed by six fellow students, all masked, who branded his forehead with silver nitrate in a cross shape, disfiguring him for life. The ringleader, Kent Pfeiffer of St Paul, Minnesota was later expelled from the university.
At the time of his 1917 US draft Sidney was living at 364 West 57th Street, New York, described as a student and of medium height, slender in frame and with blue eyes and brown hair. Still at home with his parents by the time of the 1920 census, their address then being 358 Gareon Avenue, Rochester, Collett was described as a film examiner in the Kodak factory.
Further details about Collett's later life are not entirely certain. Whilst some sources have said he was married and had a family there appears to have been a confusion between he and another man named Sidney Collett (see note 3). When the correct Sidney Collett appeared on the 1939 UK register he was described as an unmarried salesman, lodging at an address in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
Sidney Collett died in Islington, London in the first quarter of 1941.3
His last surviving sibling was his youngest sister Lily who died in Rochester on 23 October 1974.