Old Collegian Colin Gregson (SPC 1910-11)
author: Catriona Banks
Whatever happened to Colin Leslie Gregson, Service Number 561?
Colin Gregson (SPC 1910-1911) was an old collegian who volunteered for service in WWI. Although his war service record was easy to find, and formed part of the research for the College publication, Our Bravest, released in 2015, like some returned soldiers, it was not possible to trace what happened to him after his return to Australia.
A tip-off from someone in our SPC community suggested that the Colin Gregson mentioned in Ernestine Hill’s autobiography, The Great Australian Loneliness, originally published in 1937, could provide a clue as to his destiny.
It appears that after being discharged from the AIF in 1916, Colin yearned for silence and solitude on Australia’s remote north west coast at a place called Cossack. Here, the intrepid traveller and writer Ernestine Hill came across Colin who, with his mate, a Captain Turner (another veteran of WWI) were running a turtle soup factory for an English company.
Hill describes his life poetically; ‘Gregson has lived magazine-cover adventure since childhood, when he ran away from a merchant service training ship to become whistle-boy in a Californian lumber-camp, bell-hop in New York, a salmon-fisher in Alaska and a shark-fisher round Rarotonga, small-part actor with a travelling troupe in America and then Australia, and one of the Prince of Wales’ chauffeurs during his overseas tour, and then a bird-catcher and gold-digger in Kimberley. Nearing forty, he is still a boy at heart. The world is his oyster. His latest job is diving after turtle from the deck of a fast launch in a costume that consists of Japanese boots …’
I suppose it’s not surprising that I had trouble tracing Colin Gregson, as he had been living totally ‘off the grid’. I am so happy to be able to fill in the details of the amazing life of one of our brave WWI volunteers.