Lest we forget | George Collins

As we commemorate Anzac Day – I’m sharing some local stories to recognise and remember those who sacrificed so much, so we can enjoy what we have today.

George Collins, born in the Wellington region of New South Wales in 1876, was the son of William Collins and Sarah Knight. His mother, Sarah Knight was the first child of Aboriginal woman Diana Mudgee and James Knight. George’s parents had a farm between Lincoln and Spicers Creek in the Wellington Region. George had four brothers and five sisters and it is believed he may have attended school with his siblings at Comobella and Windora in the Wellington/Geurie area. When not at school George helped his parents on the family farm. (1)

George enlisted at Dubbo, New South Wales 20 September 1915, at the age of 38 years and 8 months giving his address as Short Street, Wellington New South Wales. Initially his next of kin was his mother, Sarah but just a day before he embarked on 17 November 1915, he married Ada Grace Holcombe. (2) Ada’s address at that time was 159 Palmerston Street Sydney. George stood at just 5 feet 4 ½ inches tall, weighed 140 lbs with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. (3)

George was admitted to 31st General Hospital, Port Said 13 June 1916 with Cholecystitis, then transferred to No 3 Australian General Hospital, Cairo, 20 June 1916, the British Red Cross Hospital, Montazah 24 June 1916; then to 17th General Hospital, Alexandria, 4 July 1916 with Gastritis.

He rejoined his unit at Bir Etmaler 14 July 1916 and by 4 August the Regiment moved from camp towards Listening Post Hill. They left their horses behind and advanced over the hill then onto the next hill where they relieved the 1st Light Horse Brigade who had been engaged with the enemy most of the night in the Battle of Romani.

The Regiment held their position until forced off by a heavy frontal shell, machine gun and rifle fire from both flanks. Withdrawing back to Listening Post Hill the Regiment held their ground until 0630. The next day the Regiment received orders at 0400 to fix bayonets and charge across the low country to Listening Post Hill. At 1415 in an endeavour to take Zatia, the Regiment got to within half a mile of it and were held up by enemy’s heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire. The Regiment
withdrew at 1900 and returned to camp. Casualties for the 5 August were 9 killed 3 officers and 42 other ranks wounded. (6)

After Romani the wounded were taken to Kantara in open trucks, a journey of twenty-three miles taking from six to fifteen hours. (7)

On 9 August the 7th Light Horse Regiment took a position of high ground north west of Hod el Hisha where it received shelling of high explosive and at 11.00 received orders to attack the enemy’s position. After advancing one mile the Regiment came under enemy heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire. After driving the enemy back 1 ½ to 2 miles the enemy then counter-attacked with heavy reinforcements and drove the Regiment back to their first position. Fighting kept up till 1700 when the Regiment fell back on Abu Elafein and afterwards retired to Oghratina and bivouacked for the night. Casualties on that day were 3 killed 2 officers and 14 other ranks wounded. (8)

After the Katia and Bir el Abd battle most of the wounded men had to be carried for some hours over the rough country on camel cacolets, many suffered extremely from jolting. (9)

The camel cacolet was used to carry wounded over long distances on rough terrain impassable to wheeled transport. (10)

Trooper George Collins was wounded during the battle of Bir el Abd, he succumbed to his wounds on 12 August 1916 and was buried at Bir el Abd in Egypt. (11)

Sadly, his grave is now unknown, Trooper Collins is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial, Israel, Panel 58.

*Contributed by Patrick Bourke, Royal Australian Historical Society

Commemorating those who served, and remembering those who died … Lest we forget.

1 Information provided by Patrick Bourke 20 April 2021 2 Information on Marriage provided by Sandra Smith, Dubbo 3 National Archives of Australia, Service Record – George Collins, 1621 4 Australian War Memorial – awm.gov.au/collection/7th Light Horse Regiment 5 ibid – War Diaries, AWM4 Subclass 10/12/10 – 7th Light Horse Regiment, April – May 1916 6 Ibid – War Diaries, AWM4 Subclass 10/12/13 – 7th Light Horse Regiment, August 1916 7 Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 Vol. V11, Sinai and Palestine, Chapter 11, p. 162 8 Australian War Memorial –War Diaries, AWM4 Subclass 10/12/13 – 7th Light Horse Regiment, August 1916 9 Official History of Australia in the War 1914-1918 Vol. V11, Sinai and Palestine, Chapter 12, p. 184 10 www.wilipedia.org/wiki/Light_horse_field_ambulance 11 National Archives of Australia, Service Records – George Collins, 1621, p. 41.

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