Topic: James Patrick Collins

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James Patrick Collins (Service no. 50192) was a World War One soldier with links to Halswell.

James Patrick Collins was the oldest of the Collins boys to go to war. He was the second son of John and Johanna Collins, of (487) Lincoln road – logistically, this was right next to Halswell school, as Lincoln road stretched all the way through Halswell back then. John, Johanna and James’ ten siblings are described in the Kete page of James’ younger brother, Sarsfield.

James was born on January 27th, 1886, in Rockhampton, Queensland but moved with his family to New Zealand about 1903, when James would have been about 16. Their exact date of arrival is not known – James stated on his enlistment form that he had been in New Zealand for fourteen years in 1917.

He enlisted at Hawera, on the 31st of January 1917, four days after his 30th birthday. His brother Sarsfield had already been to war and returned after being declared unfit for service after a gunshot wound recieved at Gallipoli, so it seems like that James would have had a better understanding of the risks of war than the eager men who signed up in the early days of the war. At the time of enlistment, James was living on Palmer Road, Kapuni, near Hawera in the North Island. He had been working as a cheesemaker for the T. L. Joll Dairy Company. He was a single man, five foot seven (170 cm), 161 pounds (73 kilos). His hair was black, his eyes brown, and his complexion dark.

James trained in New Zealand until July, when he boarded the Waitemata in Wellington, heading for England. There were over two thousand other soldiers on this voyage, including conscientious objector Archibald Baxter.  Onboard, the troops amused themselves by creating a shipboard magazine called Te Kiwi, full of soldier’s humour, as well as songs, poems, jokes and news. There were plenty of stories of seasickness, such as ‘overheard in the mess room': "No wonder I am getting fat, I have had six meals today, three down, three up” (p20).

This was the Waitemata’s last voyage – when she reached Cape Town, the ship was condemned as unfit for carrying troops. The troops were split into two groups and James was transferred to the H.M.T. Norman on the 28th of August.

The voyage ended on the 24th of September, after two months on board, when the men disembarked in Plymouth, England. They arrived at the large Aldershot camp in Hampshire the next day, and here James spent a month before heading overseas to France, leaving on the 25th of October and marching into to Etaples camp on the 27th of October. 

This is a photo of the camp taken on the 9th of November, 1917: 

Sunset over tents at the WWI NZ reinforcement camp, Etaples, France. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013018-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22722937

Sunset over tents at the WWI NZ reinforcement camp, Etaples, France. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013018-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

James was here till the 11th of November, when he marched out with his division, and was posted to the 3rd battery 1st brigade.

He spent a year fighting in France, and then, while on leave in Dublin, James came down with influenza. He was admitted into hospital on the 5th of November, then transferred to the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital in Hornchurch, England, twenty days later. Another Halswell local, Philip John McTeigue, was sick with influenza at the same hospital that December. James missed the very end of the war, which was declared officially over on the 11th of November, 1918. 

All of the Collins boys who went to war had some experience with the influenza epidemic that hit the world at the end of the war. On the 22nd of November, his younger brother Sarsfield passed away from influenza in New Zealand while James was in hospital on the other side of the world. but their youngest brother Frank had a very lucky escape – at the end of the war influenza broke out on his ship, and out of the hundreds of people on board he was one of the few who did not fall ill.

Finally, James recovered and embarked for New Zealand from Liverpool on the Athenic, 3rd of Feb 1919. The Athenic was due into Wellington on March 20th, 1919, with close to 750 people on board, 178 who were eventually bound for Canterbury, and just James who was bound for Halswell. In May that year, a celebration for the 28 soldiers who had returned to the region was held at the Halswell Public Hall, where James' name was added to a new portion of the hall's Roll of Honour, and he was presented with a gold medal.

By 1921, James was up North again. His medals were sent to him home in Puriri, Thames, in the Waikato. He was awarded the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. Around this time, he was farming with his youngest brother Frank, first at Thames Valley and later at Te Kuiti. 

James Patrick died on the 25th of August 1961, when he was 75 years old. He is buried in the Tauranga Catholic cemetery, section 30, row 14, plot 16. He had two children, Pat and Noel. 


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James Patrick Collins

First Names:James Patrick
Last Name:Collins
Place of Birth:Rockhampton, Queensland