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Collins, Capt William Federick

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 Collins, Capt William Federick

Image © Reproduced with the permission of V&A Images/Victoria & Albert Museum
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‘Captain’ William Frederick Collins (1882-1956), was born in Wales and was Bluett’s main supplier in China from February 1925 to January 1928. Shipment lists for 39 of his 45 consignments survive in the Bluetts Archive. He also supplied pieces to John Sparks (sales book 1926-1953, which lists monthly sums paid to local agents. Collins is named as a supplier from July 1926 to September 1942; most frequently up to July 1938 then occasionally from July 1938). He probably supplied others in London and Paris. Mrs Collins was said to live in England. Bluetts were still in correspondence with Captain Collins in 1937, at which time he was living in Southern Rhodesia. Much of the correspondence refers to unsold items still in storage at Bluetts. The items which Burrell acquired in 1948 from Collins’ collection, or stock, were purchased from Sydney Moss, in addition to a figure from Sparks, bought from Collins in August 1946. Collins gave the British Museum a translucent and crizzled blue glass bottle in 1924, a little earlier than his first contact with Bluetts (Dominic Jellinek letter, 30 Dec 2003). He was also attempting to make contact with the V&A, as a letter from John Sparks to Bernard Rackham, of 18/11/24, indicates: ‘I am sending you these few pieces by the instruction of Mr W F Collins of Peking, who I believe is writing to you himself, but I know that his idea is to offer them on loan to the Museum for you to show.’ A list is included, which itemises a ‘Sung period amulet, glass with prunus; S Han jewel beads; Sung period opal glass hat charm of a boy’.

Between 1902 and 1905, he was a student at the Royal School of Mines (now Imperial College, London), graduating in Metallurgy and Mining. He was a A.R.S.M., MI.M.M. and F.R.G.S.


From 1905 to 1906, he was Chemist and Mining Engineer to British Mining & Metal Co., Ltd., tin, wolfram and arsenic, Gunnislake, Cornwall. He was then Manager, Syndicat du Yunnan, Ltd., and Societe D’Exploitation de Lin-Ngan, from 1907 to 1912 and Director and Manager, Syndicat du Yunnan, Anglo French China Corporation, Ltd., and China Mining and Metal Co., Ltd, from 1912 to 1917.

During WW1, he commanded 36th Battalion of Chinese Labourers on voyage to France (June, 1917). In May 1918, he was appointed Captain and Officer Commanding, 115th Company, Chinese Labourers Corps, leading a company of 500 men. In January 1919, he was D.A.C. of Salvage G.H.Q.

His publications include: ‘Mineral Enterprise in China’, Heinemanns, 1918; papers on ‘Tin Production in Yunnan’ and ‘Chinese Mining Legislating’, both read before the Institute of Mining & Metallurgy.

The Directory & Chronicle of China, Japan,…, 1930, p.1524, lists him as a foreign resident, manager of Anglo-French China Corporation, Ltd., Peiping; p.591 ‘Peiping Directory’, W.F. Collins, A.R.S.M., agent, with company address: 13 K’uei Chia Ch’ang, Collins and the company are listed in the Peiping Directory from 1929-32.

Collins is listed in the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society as a member resident abroad, in Southern Rhodesia, from 1944, where he was a tobacco farmer. He died in Salisbury, Rhodesia, on 22nd February, 1956.

Manuscript sources

V&A Archive: W F Collins, MA/1/C2226.
Bluett Archive.
Sparks Archive, SOAS Library special Collections.

Published sources

Royal School of Mines, ‘Register of Old Students, 1851-1920 and History of the School’, p.40.
Brian C. Fawcett, ‘The Chinese Labour Corps in France, 1917-1921’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch, Vol.40, 2000, pp.33-111.
TOCS: from 1944-45, Vol. 20; 1954-55, Vol. 29.
Addresses: c/o The Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, 1 Finsbury Circus, london, E.C.; 13 K’uei Chia Ch’ang, Peking, China; Thatched House Club, 86 St James St, London SW1.

Who:
Captain William Frederick Collins

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