Name: Edward Collin Merritt
Date of Birth: 24 March 1919
Birth Location: Merritt Farmhouse, ‘Peach Grove’, Capel
Also Known As: Colin
Age at Burial: 23 years
Date of Death: 17 August 1942
Death Location: As a POW in Mediterranean Sea aboard unmarked prisoner transport NINO BIXIO.
Date of Burial: Unknown. Navarino, Southern Greece.
El Alamein Memorial. Grave – Col 93. Alamein Memorial, El Alamein War Cemetery, El Alamein, Marsa Matruh, Egypt.
Row/Grave: Memorial only. Capel Cemetery. Row 2 Grave # 12.
In Loving Memory Of
Passed away 24TH April 1984
Aged 79 Years.
Also EDWARD COLLIN
Killed In Action 1942
Father: William John Merritt
Mother: Ellen Power Moore
Grandparents (father): William Merritt and Mary Frances Brown (Coates)
Freda Mary born 29 September 1907 Bunbury Western Australia. Died 6 July 1970 Bunbury Western Australia
John William born 12 December 1909 Busselton Western Australia. Died 13 September 1970 Nyamup Western Australia
Vida Ellen born 27 October 1911 Nurse Fennell’s Violet Home Capel Western Australia. Died 23 August 1992 Bunbury Western Australia
Leslie Norman born 7 July 1913 Capel Western Australia. Died 15 June 1923 Bunbury Western Australia
Alfred Winston born 20 May 1915 Capel Western Australia. Died 2 February 1997 Bunbury Western Australia
Hurtle Hubert born 4 May 1917 Capel Western Australia. Died 27 August 1955 Perth Western Australia
Kenneth Albert born 17 August 1920 Merritt farmhouse, Peach Grove Capel Western Australia. Died 11 April 2001 Murdoch Western Australia.
Dulcie May born 31 March 1922 Bunbury Western Australia. Died 15 January 1996 Bunbury Western Australia
Audrey Francis born 23 September 1923 Merritt farmhouse Peach Grove Capel Western Australia. Died 25 June 2015 Gippsland Victoria Australia
Enlisted 29 June 1940, Australian Army, WX5910, Private, 2/28 Australian Infantry Battalion.
Edward Collin Merritt known as Colin was the seventh of ten children born to William John Merritt and Ellen Power Moore. He was born at the Merritt farmhouse, ‘Peach Grove’ Capel on 24 March 1919. Will and Ellen occupied the jarrah slab and corrugated iron cottage farmhouse on ‘Peach Grove’ farm at Capel, and the Merritt family and Capel town grew together. The hut, with necessary additions for family additions, provided protection for the Merritt family until they relocated to a new Forests Department house at Cundinup in 1929. Will had gained employment as an overseer in the Forrest Department, Cundinup Forestry Station. Jack and Vida remained in Capel and Winston had already left home to work in Margaret River. The Merritt’s small farm was leased. The four school aged children, Hurtle, Collin, Ken and Dulcie attended the small one room Cundinup State School. Audrey was still under school age. The forestry house was supplied for the family and the house was on a high hill. In summer part of Will’s job was to look out for forest fires from the veranda where they were living. The three boys slept in a sleep out on part of the veranda and. Dulcie and Audrey shared a bedroom inside. Will and Ellen had the other bedroom. The Merritt children entertained themselves and appreciated nature. When they were not helping in the garden and doing house hold chores, headed into the bush. All the family had a deep love for nature and all that it held.
In 1932 when Collin’s father Will’s health was deteriorating, he went to live with his elder sister Freda in Margaret River for a time. He then went to live with sister Vida in Busselton who was by then married to Cliff (Mick) Scott. Will Merritt subsequently died in January 1933, aged 55 years. Collin then returned home to Cundinup to be with his mother Ellen and younger siblings. In December 1933 Ellen became very unwell and went to Perth for surgery. Collin again went back to Busselton to live with Vida and Mick. After Ellen’s recuperation she returned to the Cundinup house although had to give up the house to the new Forestry overseer. So Collin, Dulcie and Audrey moved back to the Capel farm that had been leased. Will’s brother, Arthur Henry Merritt , known to the family as Unc and his two sons on hearing of Ellen’s poor health, made the trip from Garema NSW to assist Ellen and the family. A trip that was over two thousand miles and took eight days. As Ellen was in poor health family friends helped out with caring for the family. Collin by now was fifteen years old and left school to help Unc run the small dairy farm at Capel. He then went on to work at Ernie Summer’s farm in Capel.
The Merritt family like most others at the time experienced grief and hardship during the war years. In 1939 the Capel Merritt family comprised of Ellen Merritt and her nine children; five sons aged 19 to 30 years and four daughters aged 32 to 14 years. All Ellen’s sons enlisted with three engaged in war in North Africa and two served in the RAAF.
Edward Collin Merritt WX5910 enlisted on 29 June 1940 eight months after war was declared. He was a private in the in the 2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion. Collin and his brother Ken were born a little over a year apart and enlisted together although joined different battalions. The brothers attended a country dance one night and the war was the topic of conversation. They then decided to enlist and attended the Busselton recruiting office soon after. On 19 June 1940, the Army Recruiting Office advised Collin and Ken they had been selected for enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force for service in Australia or abroad and to attend the Northam Military Camp for a second medical examination and attestation. The brothers left Capel on 27 June 1940 and arrived at the Northam Camp the following day. As Collin had been raised in the bush he was very adept at using a gun.
On 5 January 1941, Collin’s Western Australian 2/28th Infantry Battalion moved to Fremantle, where the men boarded the AQUITANIA, part of a troopship convoy to the Middle East. He left Australia enjoying cabin accommodation. The men were kept busy with mandatory boat drill, aircraft watch and PT, most of it lying down or walking in the one spot because there was not sufficient room. On 12 January, the AQUITANIA docked at Colombo and Collin transferred ship to the, NIEUW ZEELAND, a small Dutch ship. Southern Palestine was being used as a base for the Australians where they could complete their training. For the first two days at camp, 3-4 February 1941, Collin was on guard duty. In early-March 1941, Collin tried to transfer to join his brother, Ken, but couldn’t do so. In mid-March 1941, the 28th Battalion left Palestine, crossed the Suez Canal, arriving at Mersa Matruh on 23 March. On 25 March, the 28th Battalion departed for Tobruk to complete training and to act as garrison troops. All the time there were enemy aircraft flying around. He described enemy planes as ‘pretty busy’. Men of the 2/28th lived in dugouts during the day and at night went out on picquet patrols. Collin usually was a part of a small reconnaissance patrol of three to five men who moved stealthily in the night. They plotted the positions of minefields, wire, machine gun posts, sentries and the gaps in defences. After each picquet they were thoroughly debriefed and the information scrutinised by intelligence staff for platoon ambushes or battalion or brigade attack. On 29 April Collin witnessed 35 dive bombers having a go at Tobruk and they got word that Hitler was going to blast out the ‘Rats of Tobruk’. He was given the job of putting up a perimeter fence around Battery HQ and at night the shelling was ‘a bit too close for comfort’. On 18 May, Collin left in the early hours of the morning for the rest camp near Tobruk; Fort Pilastrino. On the way, the Hun artillery had a go at them. Things continued for him as usual; the weather hot, one bottle of water every two days, one pint per day; they were attacked by enemy tanks and a motor cycle at close range; and fired on by artillery and machine guns. At night they went on plenty of patrols, all the time expecting a big attack.
The war dragged on into 1942.
in the Middle East in 1941 and 1942 Collin’s brother Ken in the AIF 17th Brigade, 2/7th Battalion was fighting nearby and on infrequent occasions were able to meet up and share their stories. This is from Ken’s war diary. On 22 February 1942 I got to visit the 2/28th and once again caught up with Collin. He’d been through quite a lot since I last saw him. The 2/28th had become well known for their stance at Tobruk. Collin bought me up to date with its goings on since I last saw him in February 1941 not long after he got over to Africa.
On 22 June 1942 the strategic port of Tobruk fell to the Germans. On 22 July 1942 the 2/28th went into action. Ken’s 2/7th position was near Ruin Ridge and Colin’s 2/28th had moved to within a couple of miles of Ken’s position. The brothers were able to meet up again as they tried see each other as often as possible.
Ken writes. On 25 and 26 July 1942 I happened to be on duty at our forward observation post. Our orders were to move forward and establish OP’s on Collin’s 2/28th Battalion’s objective. Knowing Collin was involved I got away for half an hour and met up with him. We spent a short time together on the 26 July, but that was the last time I was able to catch up with him. That night at midnight and during the next day 27 July 1942 the 2/28th went in against German troops at Ruin Ridge for the second time in four days. This entry from Ken’s war dairy. 2/28 went into action on 22 July. 25 -26 July saw Colin at O.P. July 27/28 went in at Ruin Ridge and were annihilated. Practically the whole BTN lost. Colin taken POW.
Collin’s last diary entries are :
15 July 1942 – Got orders to move at 10 o’clock last night. Got packed and went to Coy HQ on the trucks and stayed there and came back to our same positions again. It was a counter move to fox them. Helped dig some pits today. A couple of dog fights over us. A Hurricane was shot down but no heavies. The Hun bombed the ridge over from us this morning.
16 July 1942 – Working around on our positions. Still a lot of our planes flying around. Expecting a move again soon
11 days later on 26 July 1942, Collin was captured at Ruin Ridge during the First Battle of El Alamein, Egypt and taken POW.
Collin was killed 17 August 1942 in the Mediterranean Sea aboard an unmarked prisoner transport ship NINO BIXIO that was torpedoed by a British submarine TURBULENT.
During the following year after Collin’s disappearance, his family tried in vain to find out exactly what had become of Collin. They knew he was captured and advised by the Army he was missing in action 27 July 1942. In February 1943, his mother Ellen received a ‘printed’ post card via the Red Cross, supplied by his Italian captors and dated 2 August 1942. It said;
My dear Mother
I am alright (I have not been wounded). I am a prisoner of the Italians and I am being treated well.
Shortly I shall be transferred to a prisoner’s camp and I will let you know my new address.
Only then I will be able to receive letters from you and to reply.
With love Colin.
The Army knew many men in the 2/8th Battalion had been killed at Ruin Ridge and Allied bombing after their capture; survivors had been taken to Italy in two ships. One ship, the NINO BIXIO, was torpedoed causing further deaths. Few prisoners badly injured in Africa and aboard the NINO BIXIO repatriated to Australia gave account of the sea attack without details.
On 29 September 1943, Collin’s mother Ellen received a telegram informing her: with deep regret that I have to inform you that WX5910 Private Edward Collin Merritt previously reported prisoner of war is now reported deceased whilst prisoner of war lost at sea on torpedoed transport on 17 August 1942 between North Africa and Italy and desire to convey to you profound sympathy of the Minister for the Army.
Shortly after on 1 October 1943, a letter was received by Colin’s sister Vida from the Red Cross bureau advising that he was officially listed as lost at sea. Extract from this letter. In August 1942 a party of Prisoners of War went aboard a Transport going from North Africa to Italy. They were going to a camp which was situated in North Italy. During the voyage the vessel was torpedoed and many of the men were injured and a great many were drowned. Your brother was one of the many victims of this terrible catastrophe. We consider that the loss of this ship with the gallant men in her, is one of the saddest stories in the history of the bureau.
The news from the Minister for the Army, the Red Cross and a glowing personal tribute from Collin’s platoon commander finally bought to a close the uncertainty of Colin’s disappearance.
The full details and circumstances of Collin’s death was not discovered by the family until many years after the war ended. Family details believed his body was never recovered. It was not until 2007 after much research to find the truthful facts, that it was revealed that Collin’s body was recovered and he is buried in Navarino in southern Greece.
A memorial for Edward Collin Merritt is placed on Ellen Power Merritt’s grave stone at the Capel Cemetery, Capel, Western Australia. Collin was aged 23 years at the time of his death.
Story compiled by Jennifer Scott – Great Niece.
This story has been compiled by my recollections from my grandmother Vida Ellen Scott nee Merritt. Much of this story however should be attributed to Lance Merritt who has written a detailed family history titled ‘Merritt Family at Capel. Settlement in South West Western Australia’.
Further research, information and photos can be viewed at the Ron Maidment Archives Room, Capel from Lance’s work titled ‘Merritt, Moore and Forrest Families Settlement in South West Western Australia’.
Images used for this story are from Jennifer Scott photo collection and Lance Merritt photo collection.
If you are visiting this page and have further information that pertains to Edward Collin Merritt that you would like to add, can you please contact the Capel District Cemeteries Project via the CONTACT US section at the bottom of the main page.
© Capel District Cemeteries Project 28/06/2022