Text and Image: Claire Woods
Image of FN Collisson: Virtual War Memorial. https://vwma.org.au/
Anzac Day 2020 will be a different experience for all of us. We will not rise before Dawn to make our way to the local war memorial. There to wait silently with our community in remembrance of all those who have served our country in time of peril. We are asked by our local RSL to pause by the memorial to reflect on their sacrifice.
On the Crafers War Memorial on Piccadilly Road, there are the names of ten men from the district who did not return. Here is the story of one of those young men who went away to war.
Frederick Norman Collisson (regimental number 2613b) was one of the two sons of Rev. Reginald Collisson of the Church of Epiphany, who enlisted [i]. Collisson’s enlistment record gives details of a young man of 21 years, with brown hair and grey eyes, and of slight build (being only 5ft 2inches tall and weighing merely 122 lbs – 55 kgs). He is described as a ‘station hand’ and his mother is listed as his next-of- kin.
After leaving St Peters College, and apparently not being able to settle down, he left home to work as a station hand in Western Australia, and also as a hand on a pearling boat out of Broome. He returned home and apparently fell in love with a young woman who he planned to marry.
On 2 August 1915 he enlisted. In October, after a regulation training period in Adelaide, he embarked with the 6th Reinforcements of the 27th Battalion on the HMAT Benalla, bound (after further training in Egypt) for Gallipoli. However, after the evacuation of troops from Gallipoli, the reinforcements were re-allocated to the depleted ANZAC battalions. Collisson now assigned to the 10th Battalion, arrived in France in April 1916 when the AIF began its long campaign in France and Belgium. Thus, it was that machine gunner Collisson experienced the trials of the Somme and Flanders battlefields. It was at Hill 60, near Ypres, on 1 October, under fire from German machine gunners and snipers Frederick Collisson was killed when hit by a ‘Whizzbang’ or shell. Red Cross witness statements by fellow soldiers reported that their mate ‘Colly’ died instantly.
His father received formal notification of his death, details of the location of his grave, copies of the five witness statements, and a list of his personal effects. These were then sent to his mother as his next of kin. Most touchingly, Collisson’s brief Will had specified that his pocket bible and a copy of Kipling’s Seven Seas, which were to be found in his ‘right hand breast pocket’, should be given to a Miss Phillips of Kermode Street, North Adelaide. This then was the girl whom he loved so deeply.
On Anzac Day, we remember all the men and women from the Hills who volunteered to serve our country, and especially do we remember those who did not return to the safety and love of their family and community.
Lest We Forget
[i] Donald Collisson, a school master aged 26 years, enlisted in the 28th Battalion and was repatriated to Australia in early 1918, having been seriously wounded by a gunshot wound to the head on 13 October 1917.
Do you have stories or memories of Frederick Collisson or other people memorialised on the Crafers War Memorial?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.