|Date of Birth||October 26, 1884|
|Place of Birth||Rat Portage (Kenora), Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Matthew Collins, father, Broadview, Saskatchewan|
|Trade / Calling||telegraph operator|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||Canadian Engineers Training Depot|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Broadview, Saskatchewan|
|Date of Enlistment||November 23, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||31|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||July 23, 1919|
|Age at Death||34|
|Buried At||Broadview Cemetery, Broadview, Saskatchewan|
George Donald Collins was born on 26 October 1884 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), Ontario. His father Matthew Collins, the son of Irish immigrants, was born in New Brunswick, while his mother Margaret McNeil was born in Levis, Quebec. George’s maternal grandfather Donald McNeil, born in Nova Scotia, was one of the Intercolonial Railway’s first engineers. Matthew and Margaret married on 24 February 1882 in Riviere du Loup, Matthew’s occupation also given as engineer.
By April of 1883 Matthew and Margaret were living in Winnipeg, Manitoba where their first son Robert John was born. The following year the young family was living in Rat Portage, confirmed by the birth of George. Back in Winnipeg by 1887, a third son William Joseph was born and by 1889 the family had relocated to Broadview, Saskatchewan. Over the years six more children were added to the family in Broadview: Emmet Francis (1889), Matthew Samuel (1890), Catherine Mary (1892), Edward James (1893), Leo Hugh (1895), and Donald Joseph (1898). Charles, a twin to Leo, had died 15 days after birth. Living on Front Street in Broadview for the 1916 census, household members were parents Matthew (CPR) and Margaret, George who had been working as a telegraph operator for the CPR but was at training camp, William who was working as a traveller for a Cigar Company, Emmet, occupation given as lawyer was serving overseas in France, Matthew, an electrician was also overseas, Kate, at home, Edward who was working as an electrician for the CPR shop, Leo, a student attending college, and Donald, a student at the high school. Also living with the family was a niece from New Brunswick, teacher Elizabeth Knight.
Donald George Collins enlisted in Broadview, Saskatchewan on 23 November 1915 giving past military experience with the 16th Light Horse. Occupation listed as telegraph operator, he was found with a condition on his medical examination: ‘This recruit has had an psoas abscess, seems cured but on exposure may return. I think he would be alright at telegraph work’. (This type of abscess was historically found in lumbar/spinal tuberculosis.) The following July at Camp Hughes in Manitoba, George signed his officers’ declaration papers, confirmed as a lieutenant and signal officer. His unit of active militia was given as 60th Rifles of Canada.
George embarked from Canada in late August of 1916 and was attached to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot, Signaling once in England. However it wasn’t long until his preexisting condition returned along with a case of bronchitis, exacerbated by the wet weather experienced during training. In early September George was admitted to the Military Hospital at Shorncliffe and although briefly discharged, was a patient in the Military Hospital at Bramshott by January of 1917. Declared permanently medically unfit, George arrived back in Canada aboard the Grampian in mid May. He was to spend time at the Deer Lodge Hospital, had a bone transplantation at St Boniface Hospital in early April of 1918, and also spent time at the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital Tuxedo, all in Winnipeg.
Lieutenant George Donald Collins died on 23 July 1919 in Broadview, Saskatchewan. Death ruled due to service and unit given as 229th Battalion Canadian Engineers Training Depot, his War Graves Register reads: ‘This Patient was Taken on Strength of this Department as an Outpatient Class (1) at his home in Broadview, Sask. suffering from Potts Disease of the Spine. Death following intermediate exhaustion. Broadview, Saskatchewan.’ Potts Disease is a form of spinal tuberculosis. George is interred in the family plot in the Broadview Cemetery.
At least four of George’s brothers also served during the war. Matthew Collins enlisted in Winnipeg in March of 1915 as an electrician with the Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps. Rank given as Lance Corporal, he returned to Canada in March of 1919. Emmet Collins enlisted in Moose Jaw in July of 1915, as student at law he was with the 3rd McGill University Co CEF. Next to sign recruitment papers was Edward in Moose Jaw in April of 1918. A sapper with the Canadian Railway Troops, Edward died of pneumonia on board the HMT City of Cairo on his way overseas. Buried at sea, he is listed on the Halifax Memorial. Leo Collins, occupation given as student, signed his recruitment papers in May of 1918 in Moose Jaw. Serving in Russia with the 260th Battalion, Sergeant Leo Collins returned to Canada in May of 1919.
Along with his brother Edward, George Donald Collins is commemorated on the family gravemarker in the Broadview Cemetery and on the Broadview War Memorial on the corner of South Front Street and 6th Avenue in Broadview.
by Judy Stockham
photos of George: Janie Fries on findagrave.com
grave marker photo: mrbloggins on findagrave.com
Broadview War Memorial photos: Gladys and Keith Inches