Topic: George William Collingwood (1896-1959)

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Corporal George William Collingwood who fought in the Great War as part of the N.Z.R.B. 2nd Battalion was remembered in 2015 by his son Ron Collingwood during the Tauranga City Libraries "Threads of Memory" project. Filming: Daniel Petersen. Photos: Lee Switzer.

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George William Collingwood was born on 24 October 1896 (reg. 1896/9232). His parents were George and Selina Euterpe Collingwood (nee Robinson) who married in 1893 (reg. 1893/3250). He worked as a Carpenter before his enlistment in World War I. George embarked aboard the Corinthic on 2 April 1917.

Threads of Memory - Ron Collingwood - 2015 (8)

Ron Collingwood being interviewed by Stephanie Smith.

The following memoirs were written by George's son, Ron Collingwood:

PrologueGeorge Collingwood WWI 

Three men in dull khaki inspected the top of the trenches to see if they would withstand the expected battering from the enemy artillery. The year was 1917, and the scene was the battle-scarred fields of Passchendaele, Belgium. The three 'kiwis' knew that they had little time to complete their task.

Already, one of the artillery guns was finding its range as each shell exploded nearer and nearer to the Allied position.

"We'd better get out of here - that gun is getting pretty close!"

No sooner were the words out of the soldier's mouth than it happened - a deadly shell dropped within a few metres of where they were standing. There it lay - its angry blast miraculously defused. It was the only dud shell that that gun fired!

Twenty years later one of those men became the father of his fifth child - miraculously preserved until his time of arrival on 8th March 1937. That child was named Ronald Cameron Collingwood, the writer of these memoirs.

My Dad

My Dad, George William Collingwood, was a sergeant in the First World War and served in the Infantry, in the Trenches, and as a Sniper, and Lewis Gunner. His Service Number is recorded as 39762 from the Taranaki Regiment. He fought in France and Belgium. He had some remarkable 'near misses' during his war service:

Ron Collingwood sharing is memories of is father at the Tauranga City Libraries as part of the Threads of Memory project.

He relates that on one occasion, while fighting from the trenches, the soldier next to him exclaimed, "George, I think I'm going to faint." My Dad looked over at him and saw that a piece of shrapnel had crashed into the soldier's lower back, destroying his vital organs. He slumped over and died. It could so easily have knocked out my Dad instead!

Threads of Memory - Ron Collingwood - 2015 (1)

Ron Collingwood.

On another occasion, during a charge at the enemy, as the soldiers scrambled out of the trenches, my Dad who was next to the officer leading the endeavour, saw a blue hole appear in the soldier's forehead as a sniper's bullet found its mark. My Dad echoed the battle cry, "Charge" and continued to lead the soldiers towards the enemy position. Apparently, they were successful in their mission on that occasion. Again, how near he was to catching that sniper's bullet!

Threads of Memory - Ron Collingwood - 2015 (24)

Ron Collingwood.

The battle at Passchendaele was the most notable for my Dad. He relates that he had charge of the Lewis Gun team of five. The gun had become so overwhelmed with mud that it failed to work properly. He looked longingly towards a small brick farm shed that was near at hand. Was it worth the risk? He shared his thoughts with the others in his team: "If we can get to that shed we'll be able to clean the gun and get back into action. It's no good staying here and being useless!" One of the team agreed to go with my Dad. The other three refused to go because the risk of being picked off by the enemy was considerable. "Okay, let's go." So the two of them scampered across to the shed. They had made it! The gun was duly cleaned and ready for action. They knocked out some bricks and poked the muzzle of the gun through the hole and began firing. The enemy detected where this menacing threat was coming from and directed concerted fire at the shed. It collapsed in a pile of rubble! My Dad and his team mate were both wounded. (My Dad had caught a bullet in his stomach area.)

Threads of Memory - Ron Collingwood - 2015 (23)

Ron Collingwood. 

Fortunately the First Field Ambulance guys had seen what had happened and a rescue party managed to scramble them to safety. Ironically, they lived to see another day, while the three other members of the team who had refused to make the dash to the shed perished in battle. The wounding my Dad received then probably saved him from a bloody demise later on in the battle! Family

George died in 1959 at the age of 63 (reg. 1959/39794).

Background to the Collingwood Line:

My Great Grandfather, William, married his full cousin, Jane, and emigrated from Bigby, Lincolnshire, England, to New Zealand with his children, arriving in New Plymouth on the sailing ship 'Halcione' in 1875. The boat encountered some pretty rough weather and it took 99 days for the journey. 

Threads of Memory - Ron Collingwood - 2015 (3)

 Interviewer Stephanie Smith.


Further Information:

Births, Deaths and Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Cenotaph Database (Auckland War Memorial Museum).

Military Personnel File (Archives New Zealand).


This article was archived at Perma CC on August 8, 2016 (

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George William Collingwood (1896-1959)

Note:Service Number: 39762
First Names:George William
Last Name:Collingwood
Date of Birth:24 October 1896
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:1959
Fathers name:George Collingwood
Mothers name:Selina Euterpe Robinson
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)