(Service number 40894)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||1 June 1877||Place of Birth||Lake Wanaka, Otago|
|Date||2 October 1916||Age||39 years|
|Address at Enlistment||Timaru (Maheno)|
|Occupation||Farm labourer (Fenwick's Station, Maraweka)|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mrs M. J. S. COLLINS (wife), High Street, Timaru.Later C/o Mr SHAW, 13 Princes Street, Timaru|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 8 inches. Weight 11 stone 2 lbs. Chest measurement 34-39 inches. Complexion dark. Eyes brown. Hair black. Sight, hearing and colour vision all normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Heart and lungs normal. teeth fair. Illnesses - Rheumatic Fever. Free from hernia, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Slight varicocele and varicose veins. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Slight defect but not sufficient to cause rejection - varicocele. No fits.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||23rd Reinforcements Otago Infantry Regiment, D Company|
|Date||14 March 1917|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Devonport, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Otago Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, D Company|
|Service Medals||British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||1 October 1917||Age||40 years|
|Place of Death||Belgium, France|
|Cause||Killed in action, in the Field|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, 20 October 1917|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium|
|Memorial Reference||IV. C. 12.|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall|
The second son of William and Amelia (née Patterson) Collins, late of Cromwell, Otago, Walter Collins was born on 1 June 1877 at Lake Wanaka, Central Otago. From the mid 1870s the family resided at Pembroke (Wanaka) and at Albert Town, sited on the Clutha River, where his father was a puntman. In February 1882 the cottage occupied by the wife and children of Mr W. Collins was totally destroyed by fire. Nothing was saved, and a public subscription was raised to support Mr Collins and his family, he being described as “well known in the locality as a sober industrious man”. This was not the only tragedy to hit this family – daughter Anna died at just three months (1888); daughter Amelia (Sissy) died in childbirth in1903; the eldest son William, who had married in 1902, died in 1909, leaving a widow and three little children. Mrs Amelia Collins died in 1908, aged 65, and English born Mr William Collins in 1909, aged 74. Some ten years after the fire Mr Collins was acknowledged for ferrying a concert party back to Hawea after hours. Along with his siblings, Walter attended the Albert Town School, near Wanaka, and Pembroke School at Wanaka. On 17 April 1913 in the Trinity Presbyterian Parish of Timaru he married Mary Jane Shaw. He had come to the Timaru area by 1911. Thereafter Walter and Mary Jane lived in Timaru.
Walter had not previously registered for compulsory military training as he was over age. He was living in Timaru prior to enlistment and working as a farm labourer at Fenwick's Station, Maeraweka. W. Collins, Maraeweka, gave 2s.6d. to the North Otago Red Cross Society for the British Red Cross Fund in October 1916. He enlisted on 2 October 1916 at Oamaru. W. Collins, Maraeweka, was a member of the North Otago quota of the 23rd Reinforcements who were tendered a farewell luncheon by the Waitaki County Council at the North Otago Agricultural and Pastoral Show Grounds on 16 November 1916, prior to their departure for the Front. The Red Cross Society ladies arranged the catering and attended the tables, performing their tasks splendidly and providing a meal “bountiful to the extreme” for some 50 men and 200 guests. After luncheon, the toast “The King” was proposed and the National Anthem sung. The Rev. S. Bishop, in proposing the toast of “The Departing Soldiers”, said that he knew they would do their best to show the world that New Zealand, small as it was, had a heart as big as any in the whole Empire. “He hoped they would have a good time and knew that they would uphold the honour and dignity of the Dominion. If it were God’s will that some be left behind in the trenches they would have fallen while doing their duty and would reap a good reward.” A returned soldier asked the men to remember the kindness shown them. “If they were punctual, clean and soldierly, kept leave, watched their health, eschewed the snares of the towns, wrote freely and often home, and were worthy of their comrades who had gone before, they would be good soldiers,” he added. At 3 o’clock the men paraded on the Show Ground and, headed by the Tenth Regiment Band, marched past the grand stand to the special train, where they were farewelled with rousing cheers.
At enlistment Walter was 39 years old and Presbyterian. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed over 11 stone. His teeth were only fair. He had suffered from rheumatic fever and he was affected with slight varicose veins and slight varicocele. Otherwise he was obviously fit for service. Walter Collins saw very little time at the Front before his death. He had embarked per the “Ruapehu” on 14 March 1917 with the 23rd Reinforcements; he marched into Sling on 21 May and overseas on 21 June; on 9 July 1917 he joined his Battalion, only to be killed in the Field in Belgium on 1 October 1917 while serving with the Otago Infantry. The Battle of Polygon Wood took place from 26 September till 3 October 1917, one of the Ypres offensives in Belgium. He was one of the 206 men named in the 694th casualty list as killed in action. Private Walter Collins, 40894, was buried first in the Central Shell Hole in the front line, kept by the Anzac Corps. He was afterwards laid to rest in the Tyne Cot Cemetery, at Zonnebeke, Belgium. This cemetery, a historic site from the Battle of Passchendaele, contains more New Zealand First World War graves than any other cemetery. There are 520 graves of New Zealanders, that of W. Collins being among those identified.
His wife received official notification of his death on 17 October 1917. A Roll of Honour notice in the Timaru Herald of 20 October, recorded that his death was “Deeply regretted” and that he “Nobly did his duty.” On 13 November Mrs Mary J. Collins expressed her gratitude to all kind friends who had extended sympathy in the sad loss of her husband. His medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal, plaque and scroll were sent to his widow who was then living with her parents in Timaru. Mary Jane Collins continued to live in Timaru until her death in 1958, a widow for nearly 41 years. The death notice of Mary Jane Collins née Shaw read “beloved wife of the late Walter Collins”. She is buried in the Timaru Cemetery, where her headstone records that she was the wife of Walter. Her younger brother Ernest James Shaw who served in World War II is buried with her. The name of W. Collins is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [28 July 2013]; N Z Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5530 0027158) [30 July 2013]; CWGC [28 Jul 2013]; Otago Witness, 25 February 1882, 22 November 1916, 24 October 1917, Cromwell Argus, 13 September 1892, Otago Daily Times, 8 November 1902, Lake County Press, 18 November 1909, Oamaru Mail, 20 October 1916, North Otago Times, 17 November 1916, Timaru Herald, 18, 19 [x 2] & 20 October 1917, 13 November 1917, Evening Post, 18 October 1917, New Zealand Herald, 19 October 1917, Temuka Leader, 20 October 1917 (Papers Past) [07 & 16 November 2013; 26 June 2014; 23 October 2014; 16, 26 & 28 April 2018]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [July 2013]; School Admission Records (Wanaka Branch NZSG) [24 October 2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [24 October 2014]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [24 October 2014]; Presbyterian Marriages (South Canterbury Museum) [21 October 2014]; Timaru Herald, 2 July 1958 (Timaru District Library) [26 May 2017]; various cemetery records (Wanaka Branch NZSG & Find A Grave); https://nzhistory.govt.nz/tyne-cot-cemetery
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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