World War I veteran George Collinson, a charter member of Branch Number 5 (Ontario) of the Royal Canadian Legion received the Legion's highest award at a ceremony in 1971.
As part of the Chapleau branch's 45th anniversary dinner in 1971, Mr. Collinson received the Meritorious Service Medal. It was established to show appreciation to members 'who dedicate their time in service to the branch and for outstanding service beyond the call of duty," according to the Legion web site.
Mr. Collinson was one of the founders of the branch in 1926, returning to Chapleau after the end of World War I, where he assumed the position of postmaster, which he held until his retirement in 1958.
He became treasurer of the Chapleau branch, and at age 84 in 1971, he was the oldest active Legion executive member in Canada, according to an article by Margaret Costello.
But his commitment to Chapleau life, went far beyond the Legion, including membership on the Chapleau Volunteer Fire Department, where he was the Fire Chief from 1946 to 1958. His immediate predecessor was D.O. Payette, and he was succeeded by Adam Andrews.
|Ad Andrews, Mr Collinson, D.O. Payette|
The award was presented to Mr. Collinson by Provincial Command president Don Wilson, and the citation read by branch president Ed McCarthy.
In a "glowing tribute" some of Mr. Collinson's other contributions were mentioned. These included treasurer of the Lady Minto Hospital, the Kebsquasheshing Club and Salvation Army Fund. He had also been the branch welfare officer. He was also active in St. John's Anglican Church and on the public school board.
Mrs. Costello wrote in the Sault Star that "It was a moving occasion for both Mr. and Mrs. Collinson who are held in high esteem by the entire community," After the formal presentation, the crowd broke into a rousing rendition of 'For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.'
Five years later Mr. Collinson was again honoured by the branch on the occasion of its 50th anniversary as a charter member.
|Toddy Collinson, Mr Collinson, John Rose|
In 1916, when Mr. Collinson was serving in Canadian forces overseas, at least two Chapleau boys saw him while they were living in the trenches. In the chapter Letters from Overseas in World War I, in The Chapleau Boys Go To War, Michael McMullen and I included letters from several Chapleau boys including Harry Unwin and Charles Mulligan.
In a letter to the editor of the Chapleau Headlight, Harry Unwin from "Somewhere in Belgium" in June 1916, mentioned that he had seen "several Chapleau boys" recently including Mr. Collinson.
Writing to his sister May (Mulligan) McMullen from "Somewhere in France" in October 1916, Charles Mulligan wrote that he "saw George Collinson the other day. He is fine". At the time Charles was "living 20 feet underground" in a dugout.
Harry Unwin died while on active service on September 22, 1916. Charles Mulligan was wounded during the first day of the Second Battle of Arras on August 26, 1918, in northern France but returned to Canada in 1919 after being hospitalized for more than a year in France and England.
Michael and I were able to produce a list of 283 volunteers (282 men and one woman) with a Chapleau connection who served in World War I We identified 32 Chapleau boys who died in that war or soon thereafter due to war-related wounds/health conditions.
In World War II our research identified 416 with a Chapleau connection (at least 30 were women). There were 29 Chapleau boys who died in that war: either killed in action or died due to war-related causes.
Given the size of Chapleau, an amazing number of its citizens made an incredible contribution in World War I and World War II -- and to the community after both wars. LEST WE FORGET!
Note: In the interests of full disclosure, May (Mulligan) McMullen was Michael's grandmother and my great-aunt, while Charles Mulligan was our great-uncle. My email is email@example.com