Topic: Sarsfield Collins

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Sarsfield "Archie" Collins (Service no. 13/27) was a soldier in WW1 who lived with his family in Halswell.

Sarsfield CollinsSarsfield Collins was born on the 10th of February, 1892; the seventh of eleven children from a large Roman Catholic family. His parents were John and Johanna, who both originally came from Ireland, but lived, and had all their children, in Queensland Australia. Around 1903 the whole family moved to New Zealand.

The Collins family were quite popular, and had strong ties to the Halswell community. For example, in 1911, daughter Mary Alice Collins married Harry Larsen, and the pair gave their name to Larsen’s road (which had formerly been known as School Road and Collins road). When war broke out in 1914 the family were living on Lincoln road. Lincoln road at the time stretched all the way into Halswell (there was no Halswell Road) and John and his family lived close to Halswell School. John was the caretaker for Halswell School in 1914, worked in Halswell Quarry, along with his eldest son, also called John. Johanna was a favourite at gatherings, as locals found her "Irish wit" very entertaining (A Short History of Halswell, Graeme C. Penney).

The children were:

John Joseph Collins born on the 27th September 1883.
James Patrick Collins, on the 27th of January 1886.
Mary Alice was born on the 8th of March 1887, followed exactly a year later by Honora Ellen, 8th March 1888. Another year and a day came Thomas Matthew on the 9th of March 1889.
Catherine Agnes was born on the 23rd of June 1890.
Sarsfield, who turns up as 'Sarchfield' in the Australian Birth Index, 10th February 1892.
Johanna Mildred 9th October 1893.
Jeremiah Francis, 13th October 1896.
Elizabeth Ann, 8th September 1898.
Martha Theresa 17th June 1900

Multiple different spellings of Sarsfield turn up in the records, but at home, Sarsfield was known as Archie.

He could be a bit of a rat-bag, according to one incident in 1908 when Archie was 16. He was involved with a group of other teenage boys (dubbed 'Halswell hoolums' by the NZ Truth) 'tick-tacking' - throwing stones or sometimes corn kernels at houses, as well as swearing at elderly men. He claimed that he hadn't been around when the other boys were throwing stones, and helped to give evidence against the others and the obscene language they used ("you blanky old blankyard" for example).

When war broke out, Archie was working as a farmer for George Clement Lord in Taneatua. He enlisted on the 15th of August, 1914, just ten days after New Zealand received news that war had been declared. He was twenty two and a half years old, five foot five, 160 pounds (165 cm, 72.5 kgs) with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and black hair.

His youngest brother, Frank (Jeremiah Francis) also tried to sign up at the beginning of the war. He was not yet eighteen at the time, so he was rejected. Still, he seems to have had an irrepressible spirit, and eventually did follow his brothers to war, but not before joining an Antarctic expedition!

Older brother James also joined the war effort in 1917. Amazingly, Archie, James and Frank all returned home after the war.

Archie and the rest of the Auckland Mounted Rifles were on two troopships, the Waimana and the Star of India. These ships were supposed to leave in September from Auckland with the intention of meeting up with ships from Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin in the Tasman Sea, and then join up with the Australian Imperial Force near Albany, Western Australia. However, there was a squadron of German warships roaming the ocean, and the Auckland ships were recalled, much to the confusion of the men on board! It wasn’t till October, when all the New Zealand troopships gathered together in Wellington harbour, with an armoured cruiser and a Japanese battlecruiser as part of a powerful navel escort. Together, all the ships left Wellington Harbour on the 16th of October. On the 28th they arrived in King George Sound in Albany, Western Australia, and met up with 28 Australian ships on their huge convoy to Egypt. 

From Egypt, Archie was sent to Gallipoli where he fought for long months. As a Trooper, he was one of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who landed at Gallipoli on ANZAC day, the 25th of April, 1915. On the 25th of July he was admitted to hospital with tonsillitis, and was out of the trenches till the 6th of August. A week later, during a battle, Archie was shot in the right leg.

At first he was in hospital in Malta, and then on the 29th of August he was sent to England to recover from his injury. He was admitted into Beaufort War Hospital in Fishponds, Bristol on the 9th of August. He spent a long time in English hospitals, four months in Fishponds, three weeks at Weston-super-Mare, three months at the County of London War Hospital Epsom, before he was transferred to the Croyden War Hospital. They used a combination of massage and electricity on Archie's legs which did help, although the splint he had to wear on his right leg did cause some synovitis in his right knee. Eventually, on the 15th of May 1916, he was transferred to a New Zealand hospital. A medical board declared him unfit for service, and he was discharged from the army on the 17th of June 1916. He had served for two years and twenty one days, a total of 661 days overseas service. His right knee was still causing him pain whenever he exercised. He was only twenty four years old.

He returned to Christchurch on the 9th of August 1916, and was mentioned in the Press.

Archie didn't remain in Halswell for very long, instead, he travelled back up north where he took up his pre-war life of farming, for a little while.

Tragically, after the war ended, New Zealand was struck with a terrible influenza epidemic. Over 8600 New Zealand died of the illness, including Archie, at the age of 26. He passed away on Friday the 22nd of November, 1918, in Whakatane, after developing pneumonia as a result of the flu. It was just eleven days after the end of the war.

Births Deaths and Marriages lists his name as "Archibald Sarsfield Collins" although in all other records, Archie seems to be a shortening of the name Sarsfield, and he didn't seem to be called Archibald in any other record.
His headstone in Whakatane Cemetery records his name as Sarchfield Collins.

Archie's brothers, James and Frank, were on active service when Archie died. James was an Artillery Driver in France, and Frank was a Quartermaster, on transport duty, at the time of Archie's death. Archie's obituary in the Sun, 26th November 1918, speaks of how 'widely and greatly esteemed' Archie was.

Many of the Collins family are buried in the Bromley Cemetery, Plot 129 Block 26 Row E: Archie's parents Johanna (age 80) and John (passed away at Nazareth house, age 87), brother Jeremiah Francis Collins (Frank, age 27), as well as Archie's nephew, Leslie Larsen (age 10).

Archie is remembered on the Halswell War Memorial.

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Sarsfield Collins

First Names:Sarsfield
Last Name:Collins
Place of Birth:Queensland, Australia