Ronald Charles Colman was born on February 9, 1891 in Richmond, Surrey, England.
He was the fifth of six children born to Charles and Marjory Fraser Colman (three daughters
and three sons; the oldest son dying at age 5).


Charles Colman was a fairly well-to-do silk importer,
Marjory a homemaker of Scottish descent.

Go here for photo of Colman's birthplace as it appears today.

Young Ronald was sent to Hadley boarding school in Littlehampton. He was a quiet boy,
introspective and somewhat solitary, showing courtesy and breeding far beyond his years.

When Ronald was 16 his father died, putting an end to the boy's plans
to attend Cambridge and become an engineer. He went to work as a shipping clerk at the British Steamship
Company, at a weekly salary of 15 shillings.

In a period of five years he worked his way up to bookkeeper and then accountant.
Not surprisingly, Colman found these years tedious, and felt "very lonely, very desolate, and rather friendless."

The tedium was relieved somewhat when he joined the London Scottish Regionals, an army territorial force. There he found an escape from office work, as well as new camaraderie with
his fellow soldiers. He also began to take part in amateur theatricals, performing a variety of roles with the Bancroft Dramatic Society.

In 1914, when Colman was 23 years old, England went to war with Germany.
Colman's London Scottish regiment was among the first 100,000 English soldiers sent to France to fight. Colman took part in the first Battle of Ypres and was severely wounded at the battle at Messines.
The shrapnel wounds he took to his legs invalided him out of active service.  In May 1915, decorated, discharged and depressed, he returned home.

"When I came back to England my whole world had changed," Colman later said. "I had to have a job; so did thousands of other men just like me. Jobs were hard to find. The only thing I knew anything about was amateur theatricals. So I turned to the stage. I took anything I could get and that was very little."

Though it may not have seemed so at the time, he had just made a momentous decision, one that would change his life (and the lives of many others) forever.

 

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