Veteran celebrates 104th birthday

REFLECTING on his long life ahead of his 104th birthday today (March 11), Bert Collins admits he is lucky to be alive.

Still living independently in his home in Northam Avenue, Bankstown, which he bought in 1949 for 100 pounds, Mr Collins has survived brain, lymphatic and bone cancer and is only now just thinking about signing up to Meals on Wheels.
Working for Farmer & Co, a large department store in George Street, Sydney, at the site of the current Myer, from 1931-81, Mr Collins took two years’ leave in 1943-45 when he joined the 52nd Australian Composite Anti-Aircraft Regiment which was sent to New Guinea to defend Australia against the advancing Japanese army.
“I nearly got blown to bits a few times but managed to stay alive,” he said.
The former NSW championship exhibition dancer had proposed to girlfriend Peggy before the war but she wanted to wait and later married an American.
In the meantime, Mr Collins wed Nora but had no children and later survived her.
Peggy came back into his life when he was in his sixties after the death of her husband and son and they finally got married. She has since passed away too.
Since his retirement, Mr Collins has kept himself busy making beautiful dollhouses for charity and through Bankstown RSL sub-branch activities.
“There are only three of my regiment left now and one of their sons and his wife are taking me out for a surprise birthday lunch; I’m grateful to them and also to sub-branch welfare officer Jim Wrigley who is a wonderful support to me,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to another birthday, I am sure I’ll be spoilt rotten but certainly don’t feel 104.”