DOUGLAS GEORGE COLLINS

Born: 1914, Walton, Suffolk.

Died: 29th June 1940; age: 26; presumed drowned.

Residence: 23, Brockley Crescent, Ipswich.

 

Rank: Lieutenant.

Regiment: Royal Naval Reserves, H.M.S.’Willamette Valley.’

 

Memorial Reference:

40.1.

Chatham Naval Memorial,

Chatham,

Kent.

 

Relatives Notified & Address: Son of George & Ethel M. Collins; husband of May Frances Collins, of Ipswich.

 

Father: George Collins, born 1890, Exning, Suffolk.

Mother: Ethel May Collins (nee Clark), born 1889, Ipswich.

 

1936 Employment:

Douglas was on board S.S.’Yarraville’ arriving at San Francisco, California on the 29th August 1936, from the Port of Townsville, Queensland. Master – Hugh MacKinnon. Douglas was 22 years old, he was a 3rd Mate with 6 years of service. He could read & write, and was 5ft 11ins in height.

 

In 1938, Ipswich, Douglas married May Frances Hare, born 1916, Ipswich.

 

Probate to May Frances Collins – widow.

 

29th June 1940

 

H.M.S. ‘Willamette Valley’ was a British Special Service vessel. Originally named ‘ West Lynn’ and was built in 1928, by Napier & Miller Ltd., of Old Kilpatrick, Glasgow, Scotland, for Reardon Smith Line Ltd., Cardiff – Managers Sir William Reardon Smith & Sons. In 1931, she was re-named ‘Willamette Valley,’ she was the company’s first motor ship and joined their liner & timber division. ‘Willamette Valley’ was requisitioned by The Admiralty on the 17th September 1939 and sent to Chatham Dockyard, Kent, for conversion into a Special Service Freighter. Commissioned on the 26th September 1939 as H.M. S. ‘Willamette Valley.’ By January 1940, her conversion was complete and H.M.S. ‘Willamette Valley’ was given the false identity RFA Edgehill on entering a harbour and could wear the Blue Ensign whilst in the harbour. In this guise she was fitted out with armaments and additional buoyancy cargo and sent to work to loiter in the North Atlantic (Commander Robert Ryder).

In the early hours of the 29th June 1940, she was hit by a torpedo, which did little harm. A group of seamen in their panic boat was sent away to give the impression that H.M.S. ‘Willimette Valley’ had been abandoned. In the hope that the submarine would surface. This did not work and a second torpedo was fired from U-51 (Dietrich Knorr) which caused a fire amidships. While a bucket chain was organised to tackle the flames she was hit for a third time. In less then a minute H.M.S. ‘Willamette Valley’ had rolled over and sank by her stern. 67 men lost their lives, 24 survivors.

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