Herbert James Collier

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Herbert James Collier
Personal Information
Date of Birth 30 Jan 1912
Place of Birth Mornington Mills, Western Australia
Death 7 Mar 2004 aged 92
Place of Death Bentley, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 28 years, 6 months
Description 5'6" (1.m) tall ; ; fair complexion ; blue eyes ; fair hair ; Appendix scar
Occupation Timber worker
Religion Methodist
Address William street, Armadale, Western Australia
Next of Kin Father , Mr James Collier
Military Information
Reg Number WX5315
Date of Enlistment 27 Jul 1940
Rank Private
Unit/Formation 2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion
Military Movement
1st Departure from Australia
Journey Dates 3 Jan 1941 ‒ 12 Jan 1941
Transport Details HMT Aquitania Fremantle to Colombo, Ceylon
Journey Dates 16 Jan 1941 ‒ 2 Feb 1941
Transport Details HMT Nieuw Zeeland Colombo to El Kantara
Journey Dates Aug 1942
Transport Details unknown ship Libya to Italy
Journey Dates May 1945
Transport Details unknown Italy to UK
Return to Australia
Journey Dates 30 May 1945 ‒ 7 Jul 1945
Transport Details unknown ship Liverpool to Sydney
Post War Details
Fate POW Ruin Ridge Egypt 1941
Returned to Australia
External Monument(s) The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria
Medals 1939-45 Star
Africa Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45

Pre War

Electoral Roll entries: 1936 - 1937 Nanga Brook, timber worker

War Service

Enlisted at the Claremont camp and was taken on strength by the General Reinforcements on 27 Jul 1940. On 1 Aug 1940 he was transferred to the No.2 Melville Training Depot and on 15 Aug 1940 transferred to the 2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion, a month after the formation of the unit. Herb briefly needed medical attention from 28 Sep until 1 Oct 1940, and on 27 Nov until 5 Dec 1940 he enjoyed pre-embarkation leave.

In early January 1941 the 2/28th Battalion moved to Fremantle, where it joined HMT Aquitania a troopship in Convoy US-8 to the Middle East, sailing on 3 Jan 1941 for Colombo where they disembarked on 13 Jan 1941 in order to board the next day the HMT Nieuw Zeeland which sailed on 16 Jan 1941. The battalion arrived at Egypt at the end of the month, and disembarked at El Kantara on 2 Feb 1941. the battalion travelled by train to Southern Palestine where they could complete their training. The 2/28th went into camp at Khassa, north of Gaza. By early 1941 the British advance in the Western Desert had reached El Agheila. In March the 9th Division was moved to Libya to garrison the area east of Tobruk. The division did not have enough vehicles to take all of its units forward towards Benghazi and thus the 24th Brigade (including the 2/28th Battalions) remained in Tobruk.

In April 1941 the German Afrika Korps led the Axis counter-attack, pushing the British from El Agheila. The 9th Division withdrew to Tobruk and, with the 18th Brigade, defended the "fortress" for the next six months. The 2/28th participated in rotational defensive duties, manning parts of the Red Line, working on the Blue Line, and aggressively patrolling no man's land. The Red Line was Tobruk's outer line of defence and was a series of concrete pillboxes forming a semicircle around the town. The Blue Line was the second line of defence. In Sep and Oct 1941 the majority of Australians were evacuated by sea. The 2/28th Battalion was evacuated on 23 Sep 1941 and sailed to Alexandria, from where it was transferred to the camp at Kilo 89 in Palestine. The brigade later moved to Syria and then Lebanon for rest, training, and garrison duties.

By July 1942 the war in North Africa had become critical for the British forces. The Germans and Italians had reached El Alamein in Egypt, about seventy miles from Alexandria. Consequently, the 9th Division was rushed to the Alamein "box" and held the northern sector for almost four months, as the British Eighth Army was reinforced for a new offensive. The 2/28th Battalion reached the Alamein front on 10 July and the division attacked a week later. Just after midnight on 27 July, the 2/28th attacked Ruin Ridge and by 1 am they were on the feature. But things were starting to go wrong: the Germans were attacking the Australians from rear positions; three company commanders were wounded; and many of the vehicles that should have brought forward ammunition were destroyed or damaged. Increasingly cut off, an attempt by British tanks to relieve the battalion was abandoned after 22 vehicles were "knocked out". Shortly before 10:00am enemy tanks began moving in on the Australians from three directions. 'A' company was overrun and the battalion's commander had little choice but to surrender.

The Australians were rounded up and marched through the British artillery barrage, resulting in more casualties, as they moved behind the German lines. Over 500, including Herb were taken into custody by the German forces. Herb was to spend 12 months from Sep 1942 until Sep 1943 in P.G. 57 in Italy before being moved to Germany where from Nov 1943 until Jul 1944 he was held in E734 camp before being relocated to camp E725 until Jan 1945.

It wasn't until 11 Sep 1942 that Herb had been officially reported to be alive as a prisoner of war. On 10 May 1945 Herb deplaned in the UK as a recovered POW, granted efficiency pay and placed in 1 AIF Transit Camp. While in captivity Herb was used on railway work as well as construction for 8 hours per day. In return he was paid about 1 German Mark per day. In 1945 the POW camp Herb was in was forced by their German guards to march from the Polish border to Bavaria. Departing Poland on 23 Jan 1945 they reached Bavaria on 7 Apr 1945. Rations and treatment during this time were very poor. Flown back to the UK, on 10 May 1945 he was sent to the No. 1 AIF Transit Camp for speedy return to Australia.

Back in Australia he travelled by rail from Sydney to Perth and on arrival was sent to the 109th Australian Convalescent Depot at Point Walter. Diagnosed with very mild anxiety, he was demobilised on 12 Sep 1945. Total effective service was 1874 days of which 1714 days were Active Service, 68 in Australia and 1343 overseas.

Post War

On 3 Dec 1949 he married Jeanne Whittaker (1930 - 31 Mar 1997). Their daughter Pamela Kay Collier (9 Dec 1954–10 Dec 1954) was born in KEMH Subiaco, Western Australia.

Electoral Roll entries: 1948 at 44 Westbourne road, Roleystone; 1949 at 177 Townsend road, Subiaco, timber worker; 1954 - 1968 at 22 Staines street Victoria Park, timber worker; 1972 - 1977 at 25 Lord street, Bentley, clerk; 1980 at 44 Westbourne road, Roleystone.


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