Erroll Collins (15 April 1906 – 11 March 1991) was a British author active during the 1940s, specialising in adventure and science fiction for boys.
Collins was born Ellen Edith Hannah Redknap in Shadwell, London, the eldest of four children and daughter of Frederick Redknap (1887–1950), a master-plumber. As a child she set such a good example to her younger siblings, she was called "Goody Two Shoes" and as such by many in the family she was known and addressed as Auntie Goody. As a child she had been an excellent pianist, but never played again after the death of her mother in 1934. She did however continue to paint in watercolours occasionally. She was a keen breeder of terrapins and would often have one in her apron as she went about the housework. She had a very broad general knowledge and read a great deal, after she died one room was almost impossible to enter due to there being more than two thousand books packed floor to ceiling.
Redknap never married. Instead she took on the role of looking after her younger siblings and father, after her mother died and then later she looked after her brother Earnest. He had had a notable war record enlisting in the army in 1939 and becoming a commando, taking part in the 1940 raid on the Lofoten Islands. Later he became a glider and small plane pilot in the Glider Pilot Regiment being discharged after the war with the rank of Staff Sergeant. He then worked in research for the Paint Research Association. He died in 1979 and his sister lived on until 1991 dying alone in her home in Isleworth on the 11th of March.
Ellen Redknap wrote under several names, mainly Erroll Collins. One book by her was published under the name Greame Grant Hawkins ( to celebrate her nephew's birth ) and possibly she also wrote under the name Clyde Marfax.
Her 1944 Mariners of Space is for its time a very advanced piece of science fiction. It envisages a future world where there were populations on Mars and Venus as well as Earth flying around the solar system, and, inevitably, getting into wars. As it was serialised in the then popular Boy's Own Paper it was read widely and must have influenced many boys of that generation to take an interest in the possibility of space travel. To some extent it anticipates the later work of Robert A. Heinlein, though it is clearly just aimed at boys. It was published by Lutterworth Press in hardback in 1949.
Mariners of Space also anticipates a number of political realignments, some of which have actually come true. The book predicts a 'United States of Europe' not dissimilar to the EU, although the British Empire and the USA have merged to become the 'British-American Empire'! Nonetheless, Collins correctly anticipates that the world's major trouble-spots at the millennium would be in the Middle East (she posits a dispute between Europe and Asia over the territorial rights to the Caspian Sea). In the Interplanetary War which forms the climax to the story, Earth is victorious largely due to the population uniting against their common enemies from Mars and Venus.
Other books include Submarine City, The Black Dwarf of Mongolia,Outlaw Squadron, The Hawk of Aurania, Volcanic Treasure Rebel Wings, The Secret of Rosmerstrand and The Sea Falcon.
During the Second World War one of her books was refused printing permission by the Censors on the grounds of National Security, perhaps the fiction was a little to close to reality of things being secretly developed.
It appears that she was possibly an acquaintance of Barnes Wallis - the use of swing-wing Arrow-Planes in 'Mariners of Space' may have had their origin in this association.
In later life, poetry formed the majority of her work and she had many verses published both in local group publications and in her own right. She was also keen to help others and gave much advice to budding poets and writers as well as working occasionally as a sub-editor.
- Steve Holland. "On the Trail of Erroll Collins". Books Monthly. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
- Photos and other information can be found here
- Erroll Collins and her work is mentioned in "Tristram Hooleys Visions Of A New Jerusalem:Predictive Fiction In The Second World War"
- Erroll Collins at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database