Navy man’s legacy donated to Skibbereen Heritage Centre

Posted on: 10th December, 2018

Category: Headlines

Contributor: John Bohane

Above: A set of three World War I medals, which were found in a property near Skibbereen recently,

A set of three World War I medals, which were found in a property near Skibbereen recently, will soon be kindly donated to the Skibbereen Heritage Centre. 

At the request of the medal owner’s family, the medals will be preserved in the Heritage Centre where people can study them in more detail. The historic World War I medals were found earlier this year, during the interior demolition of a property near Skibbereen. Upon closer inspection of the three medals, clues were found, which led to finding out the identity of the navy man who served in the Great War.

Thomas Collins, Lisheenroe, Castlehaven, had received a set of three medals for his service in the Navy in the First World War. The three medals consist of the 1914 Star medal, the British War medal and the Victory medal. Inscribed on the reverse of the 1914 Star, also known as the Mons Star, appears the name T. Collins A B R 227468, which helped interested locals locate the full details of Thomas Collins. The medals were issued to those who served in France or Belgium on November 22/23, 1914. The former date is the day after Britain’s declaration of war against the Central Powers. 365,622 medals were awarded in total.

Local historian Vincent O’Neill was delighted they were able to retrace the brave history of Thomas Collins and his medals will now be maintained for posterity. Vincent and a team of volunteers engaged in a lot of detailed research on the history of Thomas Collins. Vincent recalls their findings and his brave history in great details.

“Thomas Collins was born in the townland of Lisheenroe, Castlehaven on March 14, 1886. He was one of seven children; his brother Jeremiah was also a member of the Royal Navy. Thomas Collins enlisted in the Royal Navy on July 16, 1903 as a boy, Second Class. Thomas’s first period of active service with the Royal Navy ended in June 1927, when he was discharged from the Navy, with a rating of Stoker, First Class. He re-entered the Royal Navy on August 23, 1939. On re-entering the Royal Navy in 1939, Thomas held three badges awarded to him for distinguished service during his first period of service in the Navy. With war inevitable in the summer of 1939, either a call-up of former service personnel, or general conscription of able-bodied men, led to Thomas re-enlisting in the Royal Navy for the coming war.”

Details and knowledge with regard Thomas’ service during the WW2 are unfortunately less well known, revealed Vincent. “During World War 2, the last ship that Thomas served on was HMS Cochrane, which operated out of the Royal Naval Base at Firth of Forth, Fife, Scotland from 1940-1945, before the ship was scrapped in 1946. He also served on the Drake 1, as a record of it appears on his service record. Most likely Thomas Collins was an instructor in submarine drill and was permanently stationed on land. This would suggest that Thomas was not lost in active duty during World War 2.”

With this year marking the centenary of the final days of World War 1, it is very fitting that the medals are preserved for posterity and Thomas Collins’ legacy will become more well-known for generations to come. Vincent is delighted his memory will be remembered with great affection and the finding of his medals will ensure his legacy remains. “He was a fine navy man as were many more people from the area who served to enrich the cause for freedom. Having made contact with a living relative of Thomas, the medals will be stored in the Heritage Centre in Skibbereen. I would like to express gratitude to those who helped me in my research. I am also grateful to the finder of the medals, whose integrity began this journey and to the next of kin who generously allowed the medals to stay in the public domain.”

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