Farewell to an Old Mate to Many

Memories With Ivor Jones & Friends

Almost a year ago I wrote a piece in this publication about Albert (Bert) Collins who at the time was said to be the oldest surviving soldier in Australia from the Second World War. Farewell 

Bert had just celebrated his 105th birthday at the Bankstown RSL and the celebration was carried on several news programmes on television in Sydney at the time. As well as my article in this publication, Lawrence Machado, a colleague on the “Hills to Hawkesbury Community News”, also wrote a piece regarding an interview that he had with Bert just after his 104th birthday in 2020.

Whilst Bert’s home may have been located at Bankstown he also had family ties with the Hills district where he often stayed with his niece, Lorraine, who had provided care for him over many years.

FarewellMy wife and I, together with Lorraine and a few friends, also celebrated Bert’s 105th birthday at a local club on the day after the Bankstown RSL celebration. Bert Collins  was very chatty and enjoyed our little celebration where memories and jokes abounded.

Bert was a fighter throughout his life. At the age of 100, Bert Collins had been diagnosed with a severe case of Melanoma and had been given a sentence, when told he would only survive for another six months. Instead, Bert, after receiving an injection to remove the melanoma, continued until February 13th of this year at almost 106 years of age. Bert’s next birthday was to fall in March. He passed away just weeks short.

Bert was a generous person who, for many years, built dolls houses of all sizes and colours for children right up to his 90s. As he told Lawrence Machado in 2020, “I enjoyed making the doll’s houses as it gave so much pleasure to the children and their families, many keeping them for years after their children had grown up”. Bert went on to tell Lawrence “I bought all the pieces and did everything in my shed and even got some equipment made to my specifications.”

Bert had many talents and also loved Ballroom dancing and, as I had once been a ballroom dancer myself having given it up some 55 years ago, we both reminisced about the dances we once enjoyed and the ballrooms and dancing competitions of the past. Bert remained dancing up to his 90s. He said that it helped keep him fit and healthy.

During the evening that Bert Collins and I spent together he told me a tale that he claimed happened during his war years. He said that whilst on duty as a sentry at an army base he spotted a Senior officer approaching the gate. Knowing that his army buddies were behind a building playing an illegal game of “two-up” he asked the Senior Officer for the password before he could be allowed to enter the camp.

The officer did not know the password so Bert Collins refused him entry. The officer said that he would come back the next day. One of Bert’s mates asked “What is the password?” Bert replied “Hell if I know, I just wanted to stop him before he discovered you lot playing two-up. As far as I know there isn’t a password.”

Bert was a humble man who never forgot his mates and told Lawrence back in 2020 “I am one of the luckiest men alive. I am grateful to return from the Second World War alive whilst many of my mates never made it back. I have a spirit within me and I hope that spirit never leaves me”.

Sadly, on February 13th Bert said farewell to this world and has gone to join his mates who never made it back during the Second World War. RIP Bert. Your face will be missed at the ANZAC DAY marches after many years of marching with your comrades.
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