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COLLINS, Erskine Gilbert MM (1893-1917) +

COLLINS, Erskine Gilbert MM (1893-1917)

Erskine Gilbert Collins was born on 8 May 1893, the son of William Gilbert Collins and Thomasina Maria nee Treacy, of Stretton, Geelong. He came to the College in 1904, and spent eight years at the School. His address at enrolment was Prospect Rd, Newtown.

He gained the following academic awards up to 1908:
1904, 1st, English, Junior College 3rd Form.
1904, 1st, History, Junior College 3rd Form.
1906, 2nd, Scripture, Lower 4th Form.
1907, 2nd, History, Middle 4th Form.

He was a draughtsman of some merit, and was studying under a local architect at the Gordon Technical College when, during World War I, he enlisted (No 2471) on 19 August, 1915, and embarked with the 12th Reinforcement Group from Sydney on RMS Mooltan on 11 December 1915.

He saw service in France, and wrote to Mr George R King, Principal of the Gordon, telling of his escape from serious injury, when wounded in both arms and one leg: ‘The wallet you gave me probably saved my life, for a shrapnel bullet, entering my left breast pocket, was stopped by it. Lucky, eh?’

Memorial to E G Collins (Hatton)

Memorial to E G Collins (Hatton)

He was awarded the Military Medal, gazetted 17 December, 1917, the citation read:
‘During the operations along the Menin Road on 20th and 22nd September 1917 he was employed as a company runner from strong point at Black Watch Corner to Hooge Crater. He successfully accomplished seven trips, aggregating about twenty-five miles under most dangerous conditions of heavy barrage fire. On several occasions he voluntarily carried water to the front and acted as a guide for other parties. He showed a splendid devotion to duty and carried on after being slightly wounded.’

While a sapper with 2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers, he was wounded at Corduroy Road-Birr Cross Road, Westhoek, and died as a result of those wounds on 1 October, 1917 at Menin Road Dressing Station. Lt W A Collins wrote to the Red Cross Information Bureau, giving details of his service, and the circumstances of his demise:
‘Re No 2471 Sapper E G Collins, 2nd Fld Coy Engineers, AIF through Cpl Wallace of the same unit to whom your enquiry was directed. I have just written to the poor lads’ parents in Australia and gave them all the details I have available. Spr Collins was in my section No 3 of the above Coy and whilst proceeding to work with the rest of the boys was unfortunately hit by a piece of shell which burst too close to us. Spr Collins was hit severely in the side and rendered unconscious. He was carried to the dressing station but rapidly sank and died there. I had enquiries made re his burial place but could not glean definite information. The AMC unit moving out, made it a difficult matter but I am quite sure that he was properly buried and had the Padre’s attention at the last. The dressing station referred to is on the Menin Road between Hooge and Birr Cross Roads, the latter being fully a mile on the Hooge side of Ypres on that road. The date of his death 1.10.17 is correct ... Age about 23. Architectural draftsman, medium height, slim build, dark complexion and hair and possessed a nose which was slightly prominent. I cannot say if his grave was registered but am sure that it would be.’

Erskine Collins was buried at Menin Road South Cemetery, Ypres - Grave II.I.24.

His AWM Roll of Honour particulars state:
‘Won the Military Cross (sic). His Majesty in forwarding same wrote his deep personal sympathy and the loss the Australian Army had sustained through his death, his magnificent conduct in the battle field helped to earn the Australian soldiers fame which would endure forever.’

His cousin, Lieutenant Frank Erskine Hobbs Collins, the son of Albert James Collins and Frances Claudine Collins, of Geelong, enlisted in 47 Battalion in Western Australia on 7 July 1915, and was killed shortly after at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. He has no known grave, his name is commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp 21-22 (citing Pegasus; Australia War Memorial; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Photo Pegasus December, 1917; Memorial Image - L Hatton.
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