WW1 Rifleman Douglas Leopold Wright Collis 23/2131

Rifleman Douglas Leopold Wright Collis [1]

Douglas Leopold Wright Collis (23/2131) was born in New Plymouth on the 26 July 1890, the youngest son of Photographer, William Andrew Collis and Lydia Naomi Collis.

As well as being a photographer, W.A. Collis was a Councillor and Deputy Mayor of New Plymouth [1, 2, 3] Douglas attended New Plymouth Boys High School and was a volunteer for four years in the Territorials 6th Hauraki Regiment. He was also a member of the College Rifles Rugby Football Club at Remuera but it is not known how or when he was living in Remuera or Auckland.

At the time of his enlistment on 25 September 1916, he was 26 years of age, 5ft 5 ¾ inches tall with grey eyes and brown hair. He was working as a Civil Servant in Rotorua. Civil Servants such as Douglas, were employed by the State or the New Zealand Government in all categories to help the system function. In 1914, the New Zealand public service employed 33,000 permanent employees, working for the railways, post and telegraph, as teachers, and police, plus 16,000 temporary employees, mainly working on the roads and railways. At that time, the State or Public Service served the basic needs of a colonial society, providing a judicial and penal system, machinery to manage and record land ownership, taxation, postal services, public works, mental hospitals, and a few other basic functions. [4, 5]

College Rifles Roll Of Honour [2]

Douglas sailed on the 1st April 1916 for Suez, Egypt as a Quartermaster Sergeant with the 5th Reinforcements, 1st Battalion, E Company in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. A quartermaster Sergeant provided materials and distribution to support the soldiers and units in the field Douglas later became a front-line soldier as a Rifleman. From Alexandria, Egypt, he was sent to Etaples in France to fight on the Western Front. He was killed in action in the Somme, Northern France on 15 September 1916. It was on that day at 6.20 a.m. the New Zealand Division set off from the front line into no-man’s-land behind a curtain of artillery fire. In the first push, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the New Zealanders captured the German-occupied Switch Trench after close-quarter fighting with grenades and bayonets, while the British 41st Division secured the town of Flers. The front line moved northwards to the line of purple dashes on the map, where the corps consolidated its new positions and repelled German counter-attacks. A position they held, but at huge cost of life and injury. [6]


He is named on memorials at:

• Roll of Honour, College Rifles, Rugby Union Football & Sports Club, 33 Haast Street, Remuera, Auckland

• New Plymouth Boy’s High School memorial gate, New Plymouth, New Zealand

• Rotorua War Memorial (World War 1)