Private John Robert Collinson

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Massachusetts.

The grave of Private John Robert Collinson

John Robert Collinson was born on 1 February 1896 in Keighley, West Yorkshire the only son and eldest of the two children of Isaac and Martha Collinson.[1] When he was eight his mother died and soon afterwards his father remarried.[2] The fate of that marriage is not known but in September 1907 Isaac Collinson emigrated alone to the United States, to Lawrence, Massachusetts. The two children lived with their maternal grandparents and then their mother’s brother in Leeds until they followed their father in November 1914; Isaac Collinson had remarried by the time of their arrival and over the next few years half-siblings were added to the family.[3] Having lived for a time in Rhode Island, the family settled in Methuen, Massachusetts. Prior to his enlistment, Collinson worked in a mill in Lawrence and he lived in Methuen with his wife, Fanny, who had also been born in Yorkshire, and their daughter.[4]

He enlisted on 23 January 1918 and joined the 249th Battalion, Canadian Infantry; he was allocated the number 1070011. The Battalion had been raised in 1917 and by the time Collinson joined it was preparing to travel to England. Having embarked at Halifax on the RMS Saxonia (part of the unit sailed on RMS Megantic), Collinson sailed for England on 21 February and disembarked at Liverpool on 4 March 1918. Soon after its arrival, the Battalion was absorbed into 15th Reserve Battalion based at Bramshott, where Collinson would complete his training.

On 1 June 1918 Collinson left Bramshott for France, where he would join the 5th Battalion in 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. He finally joined the Battalion on 20 July and served with it for six weeks until he suffered a minor gunshot wound across his left shoulder blade. He was wounded on 1 September 1918 when the Battalion took part in the preliminary operation to the successful Battle of the Drocourt-Quéant Line; he was one of over 5,600 casualties suffered by the Canadians over the three days of offensive operations here. (See the gallery below for the Battalion’s war diary.) Treated initially at 4th General Hospital at Camiers he was soon dispatched to England, where he was admitted to Norfolk War Hospital on 5 September 1918. A week later he was discharged to the Red Cross Hospital in Great Yarmouth. After a month his wound was deemed to have completely healed leaving no disability and he was found fit to be sent to 2nd Canadian Convalescent Depot and then home for discharge. In December 1918 he was sent to Kemmel Park in Wales and on 9 January 1919 he set off on his journey home onboard RMS Olympic. Private Collinson was demobilised on 7 February 1918 and categorised as fully fit ‘A1’.

Collinson returned to Methuen. Little is known about his life after the war other than that he fell ill and was admitted to United States Public Health Hospital No. 36 in Boston where he died of chronic pachymeningitis on 27 September 1920. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Methuen. In February 1921 his wife gave birth to their second daughter. Collinson’s death was considered attributable to his war service, although there is no indication in his record as to why that should be. His grave is marked with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone but he is not commemorated in the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance.

1. (Back) Isaac Collinson (8 December 1875-6 July 1943) married Martha Alice Fletcher (13 November 1874-12 January 1903) on 29 July 1895 at St. Andrew’s Church, Keighley: Agnes (later Cook) (29 November 1897-8 May 1992).
2. (Back) Isaac Collinson then married Emily Fieldhouse (1892-) on 25 July 1903.
3. (Back) Isaac Collinson then married English-born Clara Eastwood (13 November 1881-26 August 1956) in Ohio; Ruth (c1910-NK); Ralph Isaac (2 January 1915-22 February 1983); Olive Fredrika (later Mello) (8 November 1917-April 1976), and Phyllis (late Dame) (22 March 1920-22 April 1965).
4. (Back) Fanny Scott (22 April 1898-6 July 1992) married on 24 February 1917 in Methuen, Massachusetts. Norma (1918-NK); and Muriel (1921-NK). Later married Samuel Johnston and had two more children: Walter Scott (1 October 1922-28 January 2004); and Ellen Hepburn (1923-NK).

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