The AIF Project

Walter George COLLINS

Regimental number5065
Date of birth19 February 1897
Place of birthPublic School, New South Wales
Place of birthNumba, New South Wales
ReligionPresbyterian
OccupationLabourer
AddressJunction Street, Nowra, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation18
Next of kinFather, J Collins, Junction Street, Nowra, New South Wales
Enlistment date29 November 1915
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name1st Battalion, 16th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/18/4
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT SS Makarini on 1 April 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll1st Battalion
FateKilled in Action 22-25 July 1916
Place of death or woundingPozieres, Somme Sector, France
Date of death22-25 July 1916
Age at death19.5
Age at death from cemetery records19
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
28
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: Joseph and Elizabeth COLLINS, Junction Street, Nowra, New South Wales
Family/military connectionsBrother: 6492 Pte Henry Thomas COLLINS, 13th Bn, returned to Australia, 2 June 1919.
Other details

War service: Western Front

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal War service: Egypt, France.

Joined the Waratah Recruiting March (Nowra-Sydney), 29 November-18 December 1915.

Disembarked at Suez, Egypt, 2 May 1916; embarked to join the British Expeditionary Force, 9 May 1916; disembarked at Marseilles from the 'Caledonia', 17 May 1916. Taken on strength, 1st Australian Division Base Depot, Etaples, France, 20 May 1916.

Proceeded to join unit, 16 June 1916; taken on strength, 1st Bn, 23 June 1916. Killed in action, 28 July 1916.

Collins' death was not immediately confirmed. Captain P.L. Howell-Price first informed Collins' parents on 31 July that Collins had been wounded on 23 July and 'was doing well'; in a subsequent statement on 14 January 1917, Howell-Price wrote that 'Owing to men becoming very excited, they sometimes swear things which are really not correct. Hence errors sometimes do arise. I really regret this mischance and hope that you will convey my sincere sympathy to his people'. Collins was buried by a high explosive shell near the front at Pozieres. He was dead on being dug out, and was buried in a shell hole north west of Casualty Corner Cemetery, just north of the road, about 3.25 miles east north east of Albert, France. The site of the grave was subsequently lost in the fighting.

Medals: 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, Memorial Plaque.

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