Friday, 3 June 2011

G T C Collins

Gerald Thurstan Cole Collins
Born 1890 in St Columb  Died 31 May 1916 off Jutland
Lieutenant Royal Navy

Gerald was the son of a prominent Newquay solicitor, Thurstan Collins and his wife Ellen Fenwick.  Thurstan and Ellen had married in 1888 and settled in Newquay.  They had another son, Percival, and two daughters, Violet and Evelyn. 

Gerald was sent away to school in Wraxall, Somerset by 1901.  Also at the school was Horace Hawkey, the son of Thurstan Collins' fellow solicitor.  After a career in the Army Horace returned to Cornwall and became a member of the County Council. Gerald chose a career in the Navy and at the end of 1910 Gerald's name appears in the London Gazette, being confirmed as a sub-lieutenant.  

By 1916 Gerald was a Lieutenant aboard HMS Tipperary.  On 31st May the Tipperary was leading the 1st Division of the 4th Flotilla into action against the German Grand Fleet.  According to the only surviving officer,   Gerald, the Flotilla Lieutenant, was on the lower bridge.  Enemy ships were sighted at around 11.30pm, although initially there was some doubt about their identity; even after the first shot, it was felt that it was "friendly fire".  Any remaining doubts vanished by 11.50pm when the Tipperary was hit by a salvo and returned fire.  The exchange was over in a matter of a few minutes, the enemy slipping away, leaving Tipperary badly damaged forward.  Anyone amidships was killed or wounded.  The decision was taken to abandon ship and although the boats were destroyed the wounded were put into Carley floats or pieces of wood.  The battle for the Tipperary was clearly over; an German ship came close by and enquired which ship she was but did not open fire and may have picked up some survivors.  The remaining officers (of which Gerald does not appear to have been one) disposed of the signal books and confidential papers, fired the remaining torpedoes (to prevent explosion) and left the ship.  Tipperary sank at around 2.00 am.  185 of the crew were lost, leaving 12 survivors.

Gerald is commemorated on the town memorial and on a brass plaque in St Michael's church - his brother Percival's name is there too.

Thurstan Collins moved to Newton Ferrers were he held several manors.  His daughter Violet married a Naval Commander and had two sons, both of whom served in World War Two.  The youngest, Henry Howard, a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, was lost at sea in 1942 at the age of 20.

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