Topic: Colin Miln

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Colin Miln (Service no. 7/2079) was a World War One soldier with links to Halswell.

Colin Miln was the youngest son of John Miln and his third wife Catherine. John was one of the early settlers of Halswell. He was born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1827 and immigrated to Canterbury in 1851 on the ship Sir George Pollock, one of the second lot of ships to Canterbury, following his older sister who had come out on the Sir George Seymour (1850). John lived in Halswell from 1853 to his death in 1900.

John had three wives. The first was Bethia Robertson with whom he had seven children, Catherine (1860), Thomas (1861), Margaret Wallace (1867), Ann (1868), William (1870), Bethia (1873), and John (1875). John also had a grandson John Charles (1886), born to Thomas and Jessie, who was ten years older than Colin!

After his first wife Bethia died in 1879, he remarried a widow Ellen/Helen McKenna (nee Thornton) in 1880, and had a son John Ronaldson Miln in 1881. Helen Miln died in 1882 and John married her sister, Catherine Thornton in 1883.

Catherine had been born in about 1859 in Linlithgow, Scotland, to Thomas and Mary Thompson. The family had come to New Zealand on the ship Mermaid when Catherine was six years old, with her older siblings Mary, Ellen and James. Strangely enough, John Miln had been on this voyage as well – he had been visiting his homeland and was returning to Halswell.

She married John in Sydenham when she was 25 and he was about 55. Their first child, Mira, was born in 1884, followed by Robert (1886), Helen (1888-1890), George Crawford, Alexander Elmslie, Ewan (1891), Rutherford (1893) and last of all, on the 13th of May 1896, Colin. When Colin was about four, his father John passed away at the age of 72. Milns Road, in Halswell, Christchurch, is named after him.

Sadly, Catherine died of pneumonia and heart disease when she was 53, on the 2nd September, 1912. She passed away at Sunnyside, where she had been a mental patient for the last ten years. Catherine is buried in Addington Cemetery, with her daughter Helen, who died when she was 2. Her death left Colin an orphan at the age of 16. His other siblings were all in their 20s, apart from Rutherford who was 19. His older sister Mira had married Christopher Larsen, from another well known Halswell family. 

The Miln's family house was called Te Repo, in Halswell, and this is where Colin was living and working as a farmer when he enlisted for the war. Today, that house is now White House Black Restaurant at 265 Halswell Road.

Colin, who was in the School Cadets when he was young, began his World War One service at the age of 20 as a Private for C Squadron, 9th Reinforcements in October 1915. He was quite tall, standing at just over 6 feet (183cm) tall, 73kgs, with brown eyes and black hair. He must have shown some strong leadership potential because a month later, while still in New Zealand, he was promoted to Corporal on November 22nd. 

Colin left Wellington on the Maunganui on the 8th of January 1916, arriving in the Suez, Egypt, exactly a month later on the 8th of February.  In Zeitoun Camp in Egypt, he joined the Canterbury Mounted Rifles as a Lance Corporal. He also held the rank of Temporary Sergeant for a while in 1916, before heading to fight on the Western Front in France in April. Here he was transferred from the Canterbury Mounted Rifles to a Divisional Ammunition Column, a collection of military vehicles dedicated to carrying ammunition and small arms for the rest of the New Zealand Field Artillery.

Colin had various nasty health problems while at war. In August 1916 he was admitted to the Number 1 New Zealand Field Ambulance, in France, with influenza, but rejoined his unit a few days later. In June 1917 he was admitted to the same Field Ambulance again, this time with PUO (pyrexia, or fever, of unknown origin). This turned into influenza again in July and Colin was sent to the 54th General Hospital in France, then sent to England where he was admitted to hospital in Walton. By August he had been moved to the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital in Hornchurch, and after two months of recovery there he was discharged to Aldershot Camp on the 10th October 1917. However by the 25th of October he was back in Walton Hospital, then tranferred back to Hornchurch in late November, and finally in January 1918 he was sent back to Aldershot Camp as a gunner for the New Zealand Field Artillery. 

In April, Colin was sent back to France, but only a few months later, in August, he was gassed by the enemy, and was reported as wounded in the newspapers back in New Zealand. By the 30th of November, not long after the official end of the war, he was diagnosed with clinical tubercolosis, and by December he was so unwell that he was declared unfit for active service. 

He returned home on the Maunganui, the same boat he had taken to Egypt, on the 9th of Jan 1919, and served another year till he was finally discharged in 1920.

On the 5th of May, 1923, Colin married Georgina Letitia Skelton, daughter of Letitia and George Skelton of Paparoa. They lived in Valley Road, Cashmere, until they moved to Hawera in the 1950, where Colin worked as a factory manager.

He also served as a Captain in the Home Guard from 1941 till he resigned in 1943, and for some time he was president of the Christchurch Returned Services’ Association. Colin was passionate about the treatment of Returned Soldiers and was part of several large fundraising efforts for their wellbeing, including starting a 'Heritage' organisation in 1943 to support children of soldiers who had died at war.

At the 1935 ANZAC Day ceremony at Christchurch Boys High School, Colin, as the president of the Old Boy's Association, gave an address:

"When our men were put to the test they did not faulter, and when they were ordered to evacuate they took the order with traditional discipline. In France they acquited themselves honourably. They had to endure months of nerve-racking suspence, yet they bore the life with fortitude and courage.

"Always we will carry through our lives a plain, simple memory of those men; and we shall remember that even in death those men are a lasting symbol of our nation's greatness. I have sufficient faith in our people to believe that their sacrifice will not have been made in vain."

Colin retired to Molesworth, Rodney, Auckland in the 1960s, and passed away on the 8th of October, 1978, at the age of 82.

Milns Road, in Halswell, was named after John Miln in 2000.

Colin is remembered on the Halswell Hall Roll of Honour.


Colin Miln Cenotaph Record, Auckland War Memorial. 
Colin Miln Military Personnel File from Archways, Archives New Zealand
Duplicate Personnel File from Archways, Archives New Zealand

John Miln in The McDonald Dictionary of Canterbury Biography.
Catherine Thornton's entry on the Mermaid's passenger list, from
Probate records for Catherine Miln (1912) and John Miln (1900) from
'HERITAGE’ Press, Volume LXXIX, Issue 24031, 20 August 1943, Page 6
ANZAC DAY, 1935 Press, Volume LXXI, Issue 21457, 26 April 1935, Page 16 Library Edition, accessed through Christchurch City Libraries.
Births Deaths and Marriages New Zealand.
Christchurch Street and Place Names, from Christchurch City Libraries.

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Colin Miln

First Names:Colin
Last Name:Miln
Place of Birth:Christchurch, New Zealand