Spr Franklin Zeal Collins, 5th Mechanical Equipment Company, Distinguished Conduct Medal

Background 

On the 20th December 1944, Sapper Collins was operating an armoured bulldozer with "B" Squadron, 1 Assault Regiment who had been given the task of preparing an assault crossing over the Fosso Munio in support of 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade. A first attempt during the night had failed, an armoured bulldozer had been knocked out and the operator killed. At 0745 hours, Sapper Collins, who was in reserve, was called forward to the site. Mortar and shell fire was constant and heavy. Acting on instructions from the officer in charge Assault Group, he dozed an approach to the water so that an AVRE could place a facine. The site was under full enemy observation and for 15 minutes, while completing his task, the shelling and mortaring became intense. A facine was successfully placed by an AVRE and Sapper Collins was next instructed to go out and push spoil across the facine to the far side, making a rough tank crossing. Mortar and shell fire again became very intense while he was working. He succeeded in pushing spoil across the facine, but his D-7 would not mount the "step" on the far side. He returned and reported that, while still an obstacle to his D-7, a few tanks could cross and he would then complete the task. Tanks were ordered forward to attempt the crossing but the first three were knocked out any an anti-tank gun which covered the approach. This caused a long delay but at 1500 hours, under cover of smoke, three tanks got forward. The first two crossed successfully, but the third, blinded by smoke, drove off the side of the facine and blocked the crossing. It was decided that the only solution was to remove the ditched tan and put an ARK over the facine. Sapper Collins backed the dozer up to the tank and aided by a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer officer and two of his men, winched the derelict clear of the site. Movement forward was, to a large extent, concealed by the ditched tank, but as soon as it started to move, a most intense concentration of fire, most 88-mm high explosive, fell on the crossing. Sapper Collins then waited while an ARK was put in place and the crossing was proven suitable for all vehicles. For a period of nine hours, Sapper Collins remained near the site and was never out of mortar or shellfire. Each time he moved onto the task, he was in full observation and brought down a tremendous weight of fire on himself. His outstanding courage and cool judgement under fire were largely responsible for the success of the operation which, at that time, could not proceed without armoured support.