Profile

COLLINS, Michael
(Service number 47313)

Aliases Listed as Michael J. COLLINS on the Sacred Heart Basilica Memorial
First Rank Private Last Rank Private

Birth

Date 12 January 1884 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 31 January 1917 Age 33 years
Address at Enlistment 16 High Street, Timaru
Occupation Labourer (Timaru Cemetery)
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Margaret COLLINS (mother), 16 High Street, Timaru
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 137 pounds. Chest measurement 31-34½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes brown. Hair brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Heart and lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated (right arm). Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Fit, Class A.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 26th Reinforcements Canterbury Infantry Regiment, C Company
Date 9 June 1917
Transport Willochra 
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Passchendaele & Bellvue Spur)
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 30 November 1917 Age 33 years
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium, France
Cause Killed in action
Notices Timaru Herald, 15 December 1917
Memorial or Cemetery Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Memorial Reference Timaru Cemetery - General Section, Row 24, Plot 319
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Basilica of the Sacred Heart (as Michael J. COLLINS)

Biographical Notes

Michael Collins was the youngest son of Irish parents, Michael (deceased) and Margaret (née Drew) Collins, of Timaru. It appears that he was the second son to be named Michael, the first probably dying young in Ireland. He was born in Timaru on 12 January 1884 and baptised Catholic soon after, on 20 January 1884. His parents had come from County Kerry, Ireland, in the mid 1870s, with several children. Four more children were born in Timaru. The family lived on reserve land in High Street, leased from the Timaru Borough Council. Perhaps Michael, junior, was the young Michael Collins who won the Standard IV prize for arithmetic in 1896 at the Marist Brothers School. His eldest sister Mary married John Gallen in 1897 in Auckland, and an older brother James married.

Michael was drawn in the Third Ballot under the Military Service Act for the South Canterbury district and called up, in January 1917. Prior to enlistment he had been living at home (High Street, Timaru), along with several of his siblings, and working as a labourer at the Timaru Cemetery. While on final leave in April 1917 Private M. Collins, of the 26th Reinforcements, was bade farewell by his South End friends and presented with a wristlet watch. He was held in high esteem by all who knew him and spoken of in glowing terms. All his friends wished him “a pleasant voyage and safe and early return”. Michael thanked those gathered for their present and good wishes.

But Private Michael Collins did not return; rather he was killed in action just over five months after embarking and after just five weeks in the Field – on 30 November 1917 at Ypres, Belgium, a victim of the Third Battle of Ypres. The New Zealand troops had moved into the Polygon Wood area in mid-November, an area devastated by the failed Passchendaele offensive – trenches undeveloped, water-logged, and strewn with the waste of war. A “Fit for Class A”, active man so cruelly cut down. His mother received this sad news on the morning of 11 December. The casualty list (No. 738) published in the New Zealand newspapers on 12 December named 36 men killed in action. A notice in the Timaru Herald of 15 December 1917 recorded the death of the youngest son of Margaret and the late Michael Collins, Timaru. He had embarked with the 26th Reinforcements Canterbury Infantry Regiment on 9 June 1917 on the “Willochra”, destined for Devonport, England. His mother was his nominated next-of-kin. Standing at 5 feet 5 inches and weighing 137 pounds, he was in good physical and mental health; 33 years old, single and Roman Catholic After time at Sling Camp he proceeded overseas and joined his battalion on 25 October 1917 at Rouen.

His medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal), plaque and scroll were sent to his mother, his father having died in 1899 when Michael was just 15 years old. The father, who was employed on the breakwater work at Timaru, had been largely responsible for the opening of the Druids Lodge in Timaru and was remembered as an energetic member. Private Michael Collins was buried at Bellevue Spur, Passchendaele, and is commemorated on the Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, at Polygon Wood, Belgium. His name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall and on the Timaru Sacred Heart Basilica Roill of Honour. And he is remembered on his parent's memorial in the Timaru Cemetery. His mother Margaret died in 1927. And there in the Timaru plot are buried also some of his siblings – Jeremiah (1933), Thomas (1949), Margaret (1953) and Jane (1967). He was a brother of John Collins, 15339, who also served in World War I, and died in 1952. A photo of Private Michael Collins (Timaru), killed, was printed in the Otago Witness of 16 January 1918, and also in Volume 1 of "Onward: Portraits of the NZEF".

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [21 July 2013]; N Z Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5530 0027104) [July 2013]; CWGC; Timaru Herald, 24 September 1894, 9 August 1899, 20 December 1899, 13 January 1917, 16 & 20 April 1917, 12 December 1917 [x 2], 15 December 1917, New Zealand Tablet, 1 January 1897, South Canterbury Times, 9 August 1899, Otago Witness, 16 January 1918 (photo) (Papers Past) [07 November 2013; 18 & 23 October 2014; 28 July 2015; 10 April 2018]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image & burial records (Timaru District Council) [2013]; Catholic Baptisms Index CD (Catholic Diocese of Christchurch - SC NZSG collection) [August 2013]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [21 October 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [23 October 2014]; Timaru Herald, 8 March 1933 [x 2], 25 January 1949, 23 October 1953 (Timaru District Library) [24 October 2014]; photograph in "Onward: Portraits of the NZEF", Vol 1 (copy held in South Canterbury Branch NZSG library)

External Links

Related Documents

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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