Commodore John Augustine Collins


Commodore John Augustine Collins

Commodore (Sir) John Augustine Collins

Sir John Augustine Collins (KBE, CB, RAN (retired)) was born at Doleraine, as the son of Michael John Collins MD, on 7 January 1899 in Tasmania, Australia.

John Collins was amongst the first navy cadet intakes at the recently established Australian Royal Naval College at Geelong, Victoria, 13 February 1913. With the outbreak of the Great World War in 1914 naval cadet training was quickened and by 1916 he had graduated with accolades in seamanship and engineering into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Served during World War I on HMS Canada in 1917, an exchange junior officer on station in the North Sea with the Grand Fleet, and Harwich Force, thereafter in various British Royal Navy vessels and Australian warships. He was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant in 1918 and to Lieutenant 1919. Attended Long Gunnery course at Whale Island in 1929, completed Advance Gunnery course 1925, and became Australian Squadron Gunnery Officer. By 1927 he was a Lieutenant-Commander in HMS Renown as Liaison Officer for the Duke and Duchess of York’s royal visit to Australia.

In June 1930 married Phyllis Laishley, daughter of A..J. McLauchlan, and reared one daughter. Promoted to Commander and attended Staff Course at Greenwich in 1932, recieved Royal Humane Society’s Certificate for Saving Life at Sea for an incident at Portwinkle, Cornwall, south-west coast England. During the Abyssinian Crisis of 1935-1936 served aboard the new modified Leander class HMAS Sydney, on station in the Mediterranean Sea. Admiralty Plans Division in 1937, promoted Captain, commanded HMAS Anzac, appointed Assistant Chief of Naval Staff at the Commonwealth Naval Building, Melbourne, Australia 1938-1939. Captain HMAS Sydney 16 November 1939, and by 26 May 1940 the Australian light cruiser joined Seventh Cruiser Squadron, part of the British Eastern Mediterranean Fleet. Involved with sinking of an Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Calleoni, off Cape Spada, Crete, 19 July 1940, for which he received Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), for gallant and successful service. HMAS Sydney exited the Mediterranean theatre of opeartions during the new year of 1941 enroute to the city of the warship’s namesake on the eastern seaboard of Australia, where a tumultuous welcome rewarded the courage and competance of Collins and his crew. Appointed Assistant Chief of Staff to Commander-in-Chief China Force, Singapore Station, 19 June 1941, later as Chief of Staff HQ Eastern Fleet. In January - February 1942 served as Commodore Commanding China Naval Force, and had overall responsibility for escort of convoys to Singapore. Mentioned In Despatches (MID) for service rendered during the fall of Singapore. His naval command transferred to Tanjongpriok, Netherlands East Indies, and on 2 March 1942 Collins, plus some allied staff of the desolved ABDA Command, evacuated by the corvette HMAS Burnie from Tjilatjap to Australia, and was granted by the Queen of the Netherlands the Commander Cross of the Order of Oranje-Nassau, for bravery.

In late March 1942 Collins was given the position of Commander-in-Charge at the Western Australian port of Fremantle. By 17 April 1943 he was in Britain, taking captancy of HMAS Shropshire, recently commissioned into the RAN, promoted Commodore First Class June 1944, and appointed commodore-commanding H.M. Australian Squadron 1944-1946, the first RAN College graduate, and the first Australian-born RAN officer to command the RAN Squadron. In mid September 1944 warships of the Australian squadron, were attached to United States (US) Navy Rear-Admiral Barbey's Task Force, and were involved with US Army General MacArthur's return to the Phillipines. Then off Leyte island one Japanese kamikaze Val single-engined bomber suicide attack took a heavy toll on the Australian flagship Australia, the captain and executive officer were dead, along with 28 others, with 64 seriously wounded, including Collins who received deep lacerations and bad burns. At this time he was being considered for the Australian Chief of Naval Staff position, yet the debate on his appointment was neutralised when wounded in the Philipines onboard HMAS Australia. He recovered from the injuries, and continued the command of H.M. Australian Squadron, on 22 July 1945, having his broad pennant flag hoisted on HMAS Shropshire. Joined the US naval forces and the British Pacific Fleet in the advance on the Imperial Japanese capital of Tokyo. His command of warships, the Australian naval squadron, attended the official surrender of the Japanese warlords in Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945.

In post-war years he was involved in administration of the British Commonwealth Occupational Forces, Japan. Officer of the Legion of Merit (United States) 1946, promoted Rear-Admiral, January 1947. IDC 1947. Appointed Australian Chief of Naval Staff, and the First Naval Member, 1948-1955. Vice-Admiral 1950, Knight of the British Empire (KBE) created 1951. Retired in 1956, and accepted as Australian High Commissioner, New Zealand 1956-1962.
Publications; As Luck Would Have It, published 1965. Member Royal Sydney Golf Club, and enjoyed walking. Resident of Rose Bay, NSW. He died on 3 September 1989.

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