William Colling – Sunderland
Joseph William Colling was the father of Brenda Crinall of Little Crakehall, who called in at the museum with a friend who wanted to contribute a story to the Ribbon of Rememberance. Brenda didn’t really know a great deal about her father’s participation in the war, but was interested when we offered to take a look and see if any records still existed from that time. As fortune would have it, her father’s service record was available to see and so we were able to piece together some of his experiences from the time of the First World War.
Before enlisting Colling worked as a sorting clerk and telegraphist for the G.P.O. in Sunderland. Prior to going to German East Africa (G.E.A.) in 1916 he served for 13 months in France. Some of the most dangerous activities he undertook was to lay cables as close to the enemy lines as possible. These cables were essential for information and orders to be relayed to and from the battlefront. In 1916 the German plan for war in G.E.A. was to divert Allied forces away from the Western Front in Europe. Colling sailed from Devonport on the 8th of February 1916 and he arrived in Durban on the 6th of March.On the 14th of March he arrived at Kildini inlet near Mombassa. Over the next few months he and his comrades came under heavy attack several times as they advanced south towards German forces.This included fierce action near Kilosa.
At times they ran short of rations, suffered terrible weather conditions and eventually he contracted malaria in September.He was hospitalised in Dar es Salaam, Durban and Wynberg hospital in Cape Town. When he eventually returned to England at the end of 1916 he was detailed for home service.
He died on the 15 of August 1949 aged 53. His grave bears the inscription, “All great men are not good, but all good men are great”
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