Clement Alfred Collings
† Collings, Gunner Clement Alfred no.3516
13th Australian Field Artillery Brigade, formerly 4th Battalion, 11th Reinforcements
Mons Street, Canterbury.
Born at Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England, son of Alfred & Helena Blanche Collings.
Came to Australia aged 4.
Educated at Cooma Superior School.
Married Evelyn G. Cole 1900.
Enlisted Canterbury, NSW 17/8/1915, aged 35.
Married (Wife’s address unknown).
Killed in action 19/11/1916 at Flers aged 37.
Buried in Warlencourt British Cemetery, Special Memorial 18.
AWM File EDRL428 Letters to the British Red Cross re Australian Servicemen:
Gunner R. Moodie no.3491 55th Battery Australian Field Artillery, Perham Downs Camp, 26/3/1917:
This man was killed by a shell about 19th or 20th November 1916. We were in action at the time. Collings was in an act of crossing over the ground in an exposed position, when he was struck down. The Action was at Flers. I saw Collings killed but do not know where he was buried Lieutenant McMillan (51st Battery AFA) took charge of his disc and papers. He was about 5 ’7" in height, dark, thin, 30 or 32. Known as “Clem”. I think he came from NSW.
Driver Percy H. Redknap no.9968 AFA 13th Brigade, 51st Battery. 13th London General Hospital, Chelsea, (Emohruo, Warwick Road Merrylands):
Collings was a friend of mine. Bombardier F. Parkinson no.9964 (I think this is his number) 13th Brigade 51st Battery, who enlisted with me at the start, told me he was on running duty with an observation officer, Second Lieutenant McMullen, together with Collings, Pearce, Bombardier J. Hilder (since killed) and Gunner Brunt. They were at Flers, a shell came and killed Collings outright, wounding Pearce so severely that he died later; this was in the open, the others escaped.
Gunner M.G.K. Berry no. 1829 13th Brigade 51st AFA Military Hospital, Grove Road, Richmond, 14/7/1917:
I saw C.A. Collings killed by a shell at Flers in November. He was blown to pieces while fetching rations from Flers sunken road down a trench called ‘Fish Alley”. He was buried close to the Deauville Railway about 600 yards to the left. The grave stands by itself about 10 or 12 yards from the railway and is marked with a rough white cross and his name printed on it. (Not the regulation plate) He was on No. 3 gun and has a brother, Mortimer Collings, in the same battery and on the same gun (C sub-section) who actually buried him and is, I believe, still in France. I knew him well.
Eyewitness - Yes.
Private E.E. Peverell no.2774 51st Battery AFA Perham Downs Camp, 25/7/1917:
...He was about 5’6", well built, 20-23 years, dark From Sydney NSW. Was employed at the "Bulletin” Office.
Bombardier J.M Burke no.3008 13th Brigade 51st Battery AFA Havre Hospital, 26/7/1917: I I knew Collings well, he came from NSW. He had a brother in the same Battery; his brother has written home full particulars. I did not see Collings killed but I heard he was killed at Turk Trench in front of Flers. We were over the same ground in June, and I went with his brother to see if we could find C.A. Collings’s grave. We went to the place where we knew he was killed and found a grave there marked “An unknown Anzac” - we presume this was his grave.
Information given at London Office 31/7/1917: Gunner Brunt called when over on leave to answer an enquiry made to him concerning the above soldier. He said - The information filed is quite correct. I was an eye-witness to his death on that date. He is buried in the location given by Gunner Berry, but he is wrong in stating that his brother Mortimer Collings buried him. I with others who were with C.A. Collings at the time of his death removed his paybook and some effects to be handed in to the Orderly Room - but could not find his disc - he had either lost it previously or it had been blown away. We wished to bury the body, but were unable to give the time and had to move forward On returning 48 hours later we went to the spot to bury Gunner Collings but found it had already been buried A British soldier was tidying up the ground round about - a Private Gibbs of the 6th Gloucesters. He told me he had buried in that spot an unknown Australian soldier and the only clue he could find upon the body was part of a letter with Collings on it. I am sure this was Gunner Collings’s body as I took exact notice of the spot. I later wrote twice to Private Gibbs on behalf of Mortimer Collings to try and obtain further details, but have not had any reply, nor has Gunner M. Collings who also wrote him, but evidently Private Gibbs 6th Gloucesters is not sufficient address.
Letter from Bombardier Frank B. Parkinson no.9964 5th Battery AFA, 26th Camp, Lark Hill, Salisbury Plain, 29/8/1917:
Concerning the death of Gunner C.A. Collings no. 3516 51st Battery AFA. He was Killed in action on the 19/11/1916 about one mile in front of Flers which is a village (or was rather) opposite Bapaume. I will give you, as near as I can, the facts surrounding his death. He was one of a party of seven, including an officer and myself, who had to go to the front line trench and when we had completed about half our journey a shell struck him and killed him instantaneously. Owing to the very exposed nature of the ground which was commanded by German snipers, and to the mud which was almost waist deep, we had to leave him where he fell. Had it been at all possible we would have buried him, but anyone who was at the “Somme” will tell you the state of the ground at the time, and he was not the only poor fellow there either. They were lying around in hundreds and it was utterly impossible to bury one. The foregoing are all the facts I can remember as I have felt the effects of that experience ever since in the form of slight shell shock. If you were to write to his brother Gunner M. Collings 51st Battery AFA France, he may be able to supply you with any other information you may require for the benefit of Clem Collings ’ enquirers.
He was in civil life a journalist I think, but his brother would be able to identify him clearly if my information is not sufficient.
Letter from Morton Collings, “Somewhere in Belgium” 31/9/1917:
My brother was killed on the 19/11/1916 and was buried on the 23/11/1916 by the 6th Gloucesters near Flers. I have repeatedly tried to find the grave but unfortunately to date have been unsuccessful. I have tried to get into communication with the Gloucesters but without avail. A chap named Gibbs of the 6th Gloucesters wrote to me and told me where they buried him. About a month ago one of the chaps that was with my brother when he was killed and myself went looking for the grave. (About 20 yards from where he was killed is a grave) with the inscription “An Unknown Australian’s Grave”. The name had been written on paper but had been washed out. Both of us were fully convinced that my brother lies there. But I can do nothing until I hear further from Gibbs of the 6th Gloucesters. Unfortunately there is a 1st and 2nd 6th Gloucesters and I have lost Gibbs’s correct address. Perhaps you could trace him better than me. The grave I speak of is situated 50 yards from an old Trench cart, 15 yards from Turk Trench and the spot where he was killed and about 50 yards from Tomkins grave [i.e. S.Tomkins]. leant understand you asking me if I had written home letting my people know all about it. Ever since leaving Australia with the first contingent I have never failed to write home at least once a week.
Thanking you for inquiries and also for sympathy.
His brother served in the South African War and was in the landing at Gallipoli. His cousin, Private Lauriz King, of New Zealand, was killed in France.
Information from Alfred Collings, father, Mons Street, Canterbury Memorial Board, Methodist Church, Canterbury Road, Campsie.
Killed in Action Roll of Honour, Canterbury District Killed in Action.
Australian War Memorial record available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R1804920/ [accessed 07/10/2016].
The primary source of the information on this page is copied from the prize winning publication Canterbury's boys : World War I & Sydney's suburban fringe. This book is the culmination of 12 years (1988-2000) research by a team of volunteers from the Canterbury and District Historical Society led by Dr Lesley Muir. Without this team's effort and dedication and the Society's willingness and support, this information would not be available today.
An uneditable version of the book Canterbury's boys : World War I & Sydney's suburban fringe is in the eBook section of this wiki. In the main section, there is an alphabetical list of the 1,911 individuals recorded in the book - the list is titled Canterbury's Boys List. Each name in the list is linked to an editable biographical file created by copying the biography copied from the book. These editable biographies have been created to provide the space for descendants, historians, researchers, etc to add information, photographs, newspaper articles, memories, etc. they have discovered so it is available for this and future generations.
Canterbury's boys : World War I & Sydney's suburban fringe. Edited by Lesley Muir. Campsie, N.S.W. : Canterbury and District Historical Society, 2002