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Object: Portrait of Thomas Christopher Gollins

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Title Portrait of Thomas Christopher Gollins
Production Berry, William (photography studio), April 1918, Wellington
Medium summary black and white glass negative
Materials photographic gelatin, sheet glass, silver, photographic plates
Classification studio portraits, portraits, black-and-white negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives
Technique black-and-white photography
Format half plate (1/2)
Credit line Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
Registration number B.044302

Thomas Christopher Gollins, service number 53492

This is a portrait of  Thomas Christopher Gollins, wearing the uniform of a Private in the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps. He is wearing on his left sleeve the First-class 'Machine-gun Proficiency Badge' and also the 'Marksman's [crossed rifles] badge.

Thomas was born in Ashburton on 13 May 1890. Before his enlistment on 25 August 1916 he was working in Wellington as a motor mechanic and chauffeur. He married Grace Twist on 13 July 1915 and their first son, Graham, was born on 13 February 1918.

Before he came to live in Wellington, about 1914, Thomas was living on the West Coast. Cycle-racing was his hobby, and in September 1912 he became a local hero for winning the 'Round the Mountain' race in Taranaki.  He also had strong political opinions, and associated on the Coast with some of the founders of the New Zealand Labour Party. In August 1911 he attended a 'mass meeting' at Runanga, a mining town with a reputation as a centre of radical politics, which was called to protest against compulsory military training. The meeting voted to form an 'Anti-Conscription League' and Thomas was appointed to the committee which was to work towards the aim of the establishing branches of the League all over New Zealand.

Despite this background, Thomas' enlistment was voluntary. He was medically examined and passed  as 'Fit' on 23 August 1916, but was not attested for service until 27 January 1917. He eventually entered  training camp on 12 April 1917, when he was posted to the 28th Reinforcements, and transferred a few days later to the 29th Specialist Company, Machine- Gun Section. Thomas' transfer to train as a Machine-Gunner may  have been influenced by his background as a motor mechanic.

Thomas had undergone an operation for 'purulent appendicitis' at Wellington Hospital in 1915.  In July 1917 he underwent another one, for a 'ventral hernia' which was a consequence of the first operation. He was granted sick leave for 2 1/2 months, until  on 17 September he reported to an Army doctor that he 'Feels fit for duty.' On 31 October Thomas went before a Medical Board at Featherston Camp, which assessed him as fit for Active Service, but put him on 'Light Duty' for 2 weeks.

On 5 April 1918, Wellington's 'Evening Post' newspaper listed 'T.C. Gollins' as among the men of the 36th Specialist Company, Machine-Gun Section, who had qualified as 'first-class machine-gunners'.  Some time during April, Thomas, Grace and baby Graham visited  the Berry studio to have his farewell photographs taken, as he was about  to embark with  the 36th  Reinforcements. 

Thomas was finally on his way to the war, but his health troubles were far from over. In June, he spent a week in hospital at Suez suffering from Diarrhoea, then in July he was hospitalised at Faenza, Italy with Influenza.

He eventually marched into Sling Camp in England on 29 July, and was posted to the Reserves of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment.  On 10 October he was sent to the British Army's  Machine-Gun Training Centre at Grantham. On 9 December, after the Armistice, he was transferred to Oatlands Park Hospital at Weybridge as a Driver for the New Zealand Motor Transport Company, then  he was attached to NZEF Headquarters' Supply Store  in London with the rank of Driver Corporal.

On 26 September 1919  he was admitted to hospital at Walton-on-Thames from Codford  hospital with Tonsillitis.  Thomas was promoted to Temporary Driver Sergeant on  1 October,, and transferred to the NZ Ordnance Corps in London on 5 January 1920. 

 Thomas voluntarily  relinquished his rank of Temporary Sergeant on 15 January 1920, the day he finally boarded ship for the voyage home. He was discharged from the NZEF in Wellington on 28 April as 'no longer fit for war service'.

Thomas went back to working in the motor industry, as a mechanic and later as a garage proprietor in Wellington, Levin and Hawera. He died at Hawera on 3 March 1944.


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