Jul 28, 2014

Matthew MATTHEWS [1893 - 1918]

This posting is a little about Matthew Matthews and his life after he joined the AIF in July 1915.  Mat - as he was known - was born in 1893 in Horsham, Victoria, Australia and lived with his family at Highlands at Brimpaen, south of Horsham. A beautiful part of Victoria between the Black Range State Park and The Grampians National Park.

image of HIGHLANDS cir early 1900's courtesy of SLV

Mat traveled to Melbourne to enlist in the 29th Battalion on 12th July 1915 and was allocated service number 1190 - the same day as his step brother - Alexander Duncan Cameron. Alexanders service number was 1092 and he also joined the 29th Battalion. They embarked Melbourne on board the HMAT ASCANIUS on 10th November 1915 and arrived in Suez, Egypt a month later.

image of Matthew Matthews at time of enlistment

HMAT Ascanius departing Melbourne 10th Nov 1915

By July 1916 the 29th Battalion was moving through Erquingham to Strazeele near Hazebrouck. They had marched from Erquingham (at 1930 on 10th July ) to Bois Grenier and occupied the front line of trenches. There were no casualties and the men were in good spirits according to the 29th Bn diary. The Bois Grenier Line is a support trench that was about 70 yards to the rear of the front line.

A week later, they marched (at 0130 on 15th July)  to Fleurbeaux billets. (Fleurbaix, Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France) at 2330 Gas Alarm was given from the front front line but not felt here (Fleurbeaux) According to the diary, everyone was prepared. On 19th July the Battle of Fleurbaix commenced near Fromelles. The Australian 5th Division is committed in a poorly planned and executed attempt to take German trench lines. This Battle formed part of the Battle of Fromelles.

The following day - 20th July 1916 - Mat received a GSW (Gun Shot Wound) to the head and right arm and was transferred to England within days. One of 'the large number of wounded' brought in both by date & night. The 29th Bn were still holding the front line alone - at the Battle of Fleurbaix.

His brother - Alex Cameron - was also wounded at this time but discharged from hospital 4 days later.

Mat ended up being under medical care for over three months and did not rejoin his unit until 1st November 1916 when they were at Etaples in France.

By the end of December of that same year, Mat was admitted to hospital once again, this time with a 'septic finger'. Within two weeks he was being sent back to England as his hand had now become 'septic'. He was admitted to the 5th General Hospital in London. From his records it seems he was here for six weeks then given 'furlo' (leave of absence) and discharged to Perham Downs Camp.   According to Mat's service records he was admitted to Perham Downs on 2nd March 1917.  Perham Down is a village located near Ludgershall and Tidworth, located on the edge of Salisbury Plain about 10 miles outside Andover and  a large military training camp.

Perham Down Camp in winter

Perham Down Camp in winter
Perham Down Camp - inside the mess area?

Six months later Mat was transferred to 29th Bn on march out to overseas Training Brigade at Perham Downs.  By October he had proceeded overseas to Havre, Belgium - still with the Training Brigade - via Southhampton and two weeks later he was at Ouderdom. Mat was now in the Australian Corps Gas School and seemed to be with them until March of 1918 when he was transferred back to the 29th Battalion after completing the overall training for the Battalion.  He was then promoted to Corporal.

1st May 1918 they were at Sailly-le-Sec, a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France, not far from Amiens. Much documented of this time in the War Diaries for the 29th Battalion including through till 6th June, by which time they had arrived at Rivery. Still in the Somme area of France.

According to the 29th Battalion diary on 17th June they had "heavily bombarded Mericourt, Principle target being Hamel & Malard Wood. Our artillery most active during this period, Malard Wood, Cerisy, Sailly-Laurette Lamotte and enemy lines receiving most attention. Our MG & LG were very active at night at Hostile aircraft." (LG Lewis Guns & MG Machine Guns)

28th June 1918 Mat was at Bonnay along with the rest of his battalion as it's recorded that between 8.00am - 2.30pm. the Battalion bathed at Divisional Baths near Bonnay and all were issued with a clean change of underclothing!

How clean they must have felt!

By the first week of July the Battalion had moved on to Dernancourt as seen in the following page from the diary...

8th July 1918

On the night of 17th July the 29th Battalion had relieved the 60th Battalion and the "relief was carried out quietly and in good order. No casualties being sustained". 

Then on the 19th "Our artillery was active during the period, roads leading into Morlancourt, enemy supports & reserves receiving most attention".

Mat was at Morlancourt - in the Somme area of France - by 26th July where heavy fighting continued for over a week according to the diaries .... " our artillery was active, Morlancourt supports, reserves & forward receiving most attention. From 10 - 11.am and at 3.00am enemy lines were heavily bombarded" .... etc.... then on the 28th: "Enemy shelling was fairly active. Local patrols sent out. Heavy rain fell at 5.00am, visibility was poor. Work on improving front line trenches was actively carried out".

Corporal Matthew Matthews
was Killed in Action at
Morlancourt on 29th July 1918.

Further particulars about this part of the main battle is in the following two pages:

Mat is buried at the Beacon British Cemetery

The Horsham Times27th August 1918

Such a stressful time for the family, there were letters back and forth requesting photos of the grave, letters requesting any information as to where or how he was killed. The pain of losing their beloved son and brother was horrendous.

The notation on this page shows they were desperate to know more

Information to the Red Cross from Pvt Rodgers, 29th Bn

Information to the Red Cross from Pvt Bickerton, 29th Bn

In Mat's Service Records is states that the only item returned to the family was Mat's Identity disc, this was returned to Australia ex "Sardinia" in March 1919 and it was not until 30th September 1921 before the family were sent photos of the grave of Mat.

Yet according to the Red Cross "missing in action" files, another soldier took Mat's diary from his pack so it could be "sent home", there is no record of this in his service records.

Mat's sister Ruby was writing to the AIF requesting further information and all that could be supplied was "Killed in Action 29.7.18" and if any further information was forthcoming she would be immediately advised.

Amongst Mat's service records is a document dated 31st July 1917 where he says "I am not desirous of making a will". No further notification of any will is amongst his documents.

Then on 27th April 1920 Robert Matthews receives a letter stating that "the late No. 1190 Corporal M. Matthews, 29th Battalion is buried at the Beacon British Cemetery one mile south west of Morlancourt."

The Horsham Times 29 July 1919

On 18th September 1923 there was a dedication ceremony for St John's Lynch Gate for "Honoring the Brave" as seen below .....

The location of Matthew Matthews name on the Roll of Honour is seen at the Australian War Memorial below ....

Roll of Honour name projection

Matthew Matthews' name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the AWM in Canberra on:

  • Thu 7 August, 2014 at 11:58 pm
  • Sun 21 September, 2014 at 2:32 am
  • Tue 11 November, 2014 at 8:22 pm
  • Mon 5 January, 2015 at 2:41 am
  • Fri 27 February, 2015 at 4:26 am
  • Thu 16 April, 2015 at 12:03 am
  • Wed 27 May, 2015 at 9:48 pm
  • Sat 4 July, 2015 at 9:10 pm
These dates and times are estimates. The actual time of projection could change as a result of weather and other factors, so it is advisable to check closer to the date. In the rare event of a temporary loss of electrical power, the names scheduled for display in that period will not appear until the next time listed.

With grateful thanks to the following for information and the use of images off their sites.:

State Library of Victoria
National Library of Australia - Trove
The Australian War Memorial
The Australian National Archives
Australians on the Western Front


Alexander Duncan Cameron
enlisted 12 July 1915 ~ 29th Bn

his two half brothers:

Arthur Robert MATTHEWS
enlisted 17 October 1916 ~ 37th Bn

enlisted 12 July 1915 ~ 29th Bn


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