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Pte. Alan James Mather .     Australian Imperial Force. 33rd Btn.   from Inverell, NSW

(d.8th Jun 1917)

Pte. A.J.Mather (Courtesy of Kim Blomfield)

In August 2008, archaeologists from the group No Man's Land - The European Group for Great War Archaeology, recovered the body of an unknown Australian soldier missing since the Battle of Messines in 1917. Extensive detective work and close cooperation between the Group, professional partners and the Australian Army over the past 20 months has now revealed the soldier's identity as 1983 Private Alan James Mather.

The Australian soldier's remains were discovered during work on The Plugstreet Project, an archaeological investigation of part of the Belgian battlefields of the First World War. Archaeological excavation was able to recover the skeleton, as well as associated objects, including rifle, ammunition, Corps badges and the contents of his pockets and haversack. Although a corroded identification disc was also recovered, forensic investigation failed to provide identification details.

Project co-Director Martin Brown said:

"Using archaeological techniques to lift and study the remains we were able to build up quite a picture of the man, and this led us a long way to his identity. The badges gave us his nationality. His location in the field gave us his unit, 33rd Battalion, and that tells us when he was killed because they didn't spend long there. The fact he was wearing all his ammunition and grenades showed that he was in the main attacking force and gave us his Company.

Excavation was only the first part of the story. Experts from Bradford University cleaned and conserved the objects which helped us to tell something about the soldier himself. He wasn't wearing his helmet when he died, probably preferring his Australian Slouch Hat as a symbol of unit identity. Equally intriguing were the remains of a German Pickelhaube (spiked helmet) in his knapsack. This appears to have been a trophy of war captured on a trench raid. He should have left it with his heavy kit in the rear but preferred to carry it into action: he probably didn't trust some of his "mates" in the rear echelon! If he'd survived the war it might now be a treasured family heirloom."

Project co-Director Richard Osgood said:

"The scientific input from our academic and scientific partners was astounding. Work by Universities of Leuven, Cranfield and Oxford studying the chemical composition of his bones enabled us to narrow down the place of birth of the skeleton to a few locations in New South Wales. Comparing that data to the casualty lists further reduced the number of possible identities for this man to five possibles.

Forensic analysis of the bones had given us height, age and likely body type from muscle attachments. Even before we knew it was Mather we knew he had lived a fairly physical life, developing heavy muscle attachments on his bones and showing wear on his spine.

With such a low number of candidates the Australian Army commissioned DNA testing of the surviving relatives of all the casualties fitting the profile, which resulted in a positive match with one of the Next of Kin donors. This match provided the final proof in identifying Private Mather.

This result shows how integration of the fieldwork, use of historical documents and cutting edge science can produce very satisfying outcomes."

1983 Private Alan James Mather joined the Army in 1916. He was a grazier from Inverell in New South Wales, where his father had been mayor. He was survived by his parents, older twin sisters, Flora and Marion, a younger sister, Elsie, a half brother Doug and a half sister, Jessie. Following his death his Company Commander wrote that "he was one of my best and most trusted men". He was 37 years old at the time of his death, which was caused by shell-fire on the 8th June 1917 at St Yvon, Belgium.

He had no known place of burial and so was commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres, where the names of missing are listed.

Thanks to archaeology and science Private Mather will now be formally buried by the Australian Army on July 22nd at Prowse Point Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. His name will be removed from the panel at the Menin Gate in due course."

Australian Minister for Veterans Affairs, Alan Griffin said:

"I am extremely pleased that we have been able to restore the identity of this Australian soldier who was missing for almost a century."

Please visit for further information.

ABC Radio interviews with Pte Mather's family

Ord.Sea. Ernest Mather .     Royal Navy HMS Bergamot (d.13th Aug 1917)

Richard Jones

Officer's Steward 2nd Cla Harold Mather .     Royal Navy HMS Invincible   from Hilton St. Birkenhead, Cheshire

(d.31st of May 1916)

Harold Mather born 15 December 1891 Liverpool, was the elder son of Henry Walter and Bertha Mather (nee Walker) and was killed aboard HMS Invincible in the Battle of Jutland. Harold was born the son of a railway worker and had younger sisters living in Birkenhead at the time of his death.

Samuel Mather .       from Preston, Lancs

My Grandfather Samuel Mather went to war in 1915 and returned in 1916 on medical grounds. I have been trying to discover more about the country and battlefield he was at but unfortunately to no avail.

Samuel passed away in 1919 only 3 years after returning from the war. I visited his grave in 2008 and was saddened to find that he did not have a commonwealth war grave. I have been told that this was because he did not die from war related reasons. I fail to see how this could be after he was discharged on medical grounds and his death certificate states that he was on a war pension when he died. My father always told me that his father Samuel had died from mustard gas poisoning. Is there anyway I can find out more about my grandfather?

Louise Mather

Rfmn. John George Mathers .     British Army 17th (Poplar and Stepney Rifles) Btn. London Regiment   from Plaistow, Essex

(d.24th Aug 1918)

Rifleman John George Mathers joined the 17th (County of London) Battalion (Poplar and Stepney Rifles). He was killed in action on 24th August 1918 leaving a wife and 4 young sons one of whom was my father-in-law Albert Henry Mathers. John George went to war and never returned there was no body to bury and he is commemorated as a name on a plague at the Commonwealth War Graves memorial at Vis-en-Artois in Northern France

Derek Parker

Pte. James Mathews .     British Army 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers   from Newcastle


Pte. W. Mathewson .     British Army 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers   from Blyth

(d.1st July 1916)

W Matthewson is buried in Ovillers Cemetery


Gnr. Stanley Mostyn Mathias .     48th Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery   from 35,Cranliegh Road,South Tottenham, London

(d.25th December 1914)

Stanley Mathias volunteered for the Army in August 1914. After his initial training as a gunner he joined the 48th Heavy Battery in France. In December 1915 he was stationed at Mont St Eloi, Le Basset.

His team mates were:

  • Bert Dolly and
  • Joseph Anderson.

At Mont St Eloi most of the movement and maintenance of equipment and guns took place at night owing to the accuracy of sniper activity during the daylight hours. On Christmas Day 1915 Stan and Joseph went to a barn to catch up on their sleep; later in the morning a German bombardment began and Bert Dolly left the cellar he was sheltering in and ran to the barn to waken his mates. He arrived at the same time as a shell that hit the barn and all three men were mortally wounded. They were taken to Louvencourt Field Hospital where Stan and Bert died Christmas Day and Joseph died 2days later.

All three are buried in Louvencourt Cemetary: Grave24:Herbert Dolly; Grave 25: Stanley Mathias; Grave 26: Joseph Anderson.

They served together in life and lie together in death.

Audrie Mills

Gnr. Stanley Mostyn Mathias .     British Army 48th Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery   from 35 Cranliegh Road, Tottenham

(d.25th Dec 1915)

Stan Mathias died at Mont St Eloi aged 19 and is buried at Louvencourt Cemetery.

Audrie Mills

Pte. Archibald Mathie .     British Army 18th Btn. Durham Light Infantry

Pte. Albert Matley .     British Army 2nd Btn. Cheshire Regiment (d.3rd Oct 1915)

The 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment were involved in the Battle of Loos. My great uncle Albert Matley (17469) was killed there and is commemorated on panel 49 in the Loos Cemetery.

Stephen Bridgehouse

Gnr. Alfred Matson .     British Army 107 Brigade, D Bty. Royal Field Artillery   from Darlington

(d.17th Jul 1917)

Aycliffe Village Local History Society

Cpl. Charles Matson .     British Army 18th Btn. Durham Light Infantry   from Aycliffe

(d.2nd Mar 1917)

Charles Matson on right - partially obscured.

Charles Matson, Corporal 18/113, served in the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and was killed in action on the 2nd Mar 1917. He is remembered at the Darlington Railway Museum and at Sailley-au-Bois Cemetery Charles was born on the 10th December 1895 in Aycliffe, son of Thomas and Mary Matson nee Garry. He served with the 18th (Service) Battalion (1st County) Durham Light Infantry.

Aycliffe Village Local History Society

Gnr. Thomas Matson .     British Army 151st Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery   from Heworth Cottage, Aycliffe

Aycliffe Village Local History Society

William Jarvis Matson .     British Army

Aycliffe Village Local History Society

Capt. Matthews .     British Army Worcester Rgt.

Captain Matthews was a prisoner at Graudenz POW camp.

Pte. Arthur Henry Matthews .     British Army 7th City of London Btn. London Regiment   from Notting Hill


Pte. Frank Matthews .     British Army 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry (d.21st Oct 1914)

Unfortunately no details known about Frank Matthews service with the 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Bucks Light Infantry.

Nicholas Crampton

Pte. Frank Harold Matthews .     British Army 1st Btn. Rifle Brigade   from London

My Grandfather, Frank Matthews, never spoke of his experience in the Great War. The only time he mentioned something was at his 50th wedding anniversary when a chance discussion uncovered that a party guest was related to one of his trench mates who died in his arms.

Granddad enlisted in 1910 at Woolwich Barracks. He was in the 2nd Battalion and after training went to India. He returned to the UK with the Battalion and on 7th November 1914 arrived in France.

My story gets vague from here. His medal roll shows he was with the 2nd Battalion for only a short time, and then with the 1st Battalion for the rest of the war. We all know he was injured 4 times, once he took a bullet and three times hit by shrapnel. We assume he was badly injured early on while with 2nd Battalion and was returned to the UK. When fit again he was sent back to France to reinforce 1st Battalion as in June 1015 the Times newspaper lists him in casualties with the 1st Battalion. All he would ever say is "I was at the Somme"

Steve Matthews

Sjt. G. Matthews .     Army 2/7th Btn. Durham Light Infantry

Gunner Herbert George Matthews .     British Army 33rd Bgde. Royal Field Artillery   from Staffordshire

Tim Fowkes

Pte. Jack Matthews .     British Army 1st Battalion, C Company. Royal Welsh Fusilier   from Plymouth

(d.16th May 1915)

Great Uncle Jack Matthews, was the older brother of my Grandmother Olive. He died at the Battle of Festubert on the 16th of May 1915 aged 21. Jack has no known grave and is commemorated on Le Touret Memorial, Richebourg, France. We visited his memorial and honoured him in 2015

David Nicholls

Pte. John Carlyle Matthews .     Canadian Expeditionary Forces 50th Btn. Alberta Regiment   from Fordwich, Ontario

(d.2nd Nov 1918)

John Matthews was killed in action on the 2nd of November 1918 and is buried in the Auberchicourt British Cemetery in France. He as the son of Samuel and Margaret Matthews, husband of Lillian Matthews of Fordwich, Ontario

s flynn

Sgt Joseph Thomas Matthews .     British Army Royal Welch Fusiliers   from Johnstown, Wrexham

(d.22nd April 1918)

Joseph Thomas Matthews,aged just 21,son of Hugh and Ellen Matthews. Commemorated at Pozieres British Cemetery, Somme. Also commemorated at Rhosllannerchrugog (Rhos) church yard at the grave of his mother and father. Written with pride and rememberance by his Great Nephew.

Mark Williams

Pte. N. Matthews .     South African Army 3rd Btn. South African Infantry   from Australia

(d.3rd Apr 1916)

N Matthews served with the South African Infantry 3rd Battalion. He was executed for murder on 3rd April 1916 and is buried in the Alexandria (Dhatby) Military and War memorial Cemetery in Egypt. Even though he was serving in the South African Army, he was to be the only Australian to be executed. He was also the only soldier in WW1 who was hanged for his crime, and not executed by firing squad.

s flynn

Boy Robert George Matthews .     Royal Navy HMS Invincible   from London

Born in Kentish Town London, Robert lived a rather full life. His father and three generations before him had all been Blacksmiths. His Mother was a laundry assistant. He was the oldest of a family of 12.

When he was 15, Robert ran away from home and joined the Navy No. J 26013 at the beginning of WW1. After training in Portsmouth and Plymouth, he sailed on the Invincible, as a boy, to the South Atlantic to the first Battle of the Falkland Islands. It was a very hard life aboard ship. One of his duties was to take the Captains dinner to his cabin and afterwards he was allowed to eat the leftovers. One day he mistakenly ate some of the food thinking the Captain had finished, and was flogged.

After coming back to England he jumped ship and went absent without leave, staying around London for a while, working as a Pot boy in the pubs. A very wise move, as the Invincible was sunk in the Battle of Jutland, with most hands and I would not be here to put these notes together.

Robert then joined the same regiment as his father. The Royal Artillery army no. 1048820 under an assumed name, Robert G. Smith and was sent to France. He was there in The Royal Field Artillery and The Royal Horse Artillery from July 1915 To May 1919. I cannot find his Army records, but do remember him talking of the area of Loos. He was sent home to England during these years with frost bite in his feet and was in hospital in The Nunnery, on Nunnery Lane in York. My grandparents, living in Nunnery Lane, would ask recuperating lads to tea on a Sunday and this is how my mother and father met. He went back to France for the rest of the war. In 1919 he transferred to Meerut, India with The Royal Field Artillery, training as a blacksmith, which had been a family profession going back four generations at least. He was in India, moving around quite a lot until November 1925, then going on the army reserve until 1931.

On leaving the Army in 1925 he lodged with a lady called Mrs Ball, in Altofts, and worked as a blacksmith at P & P Pit, shoeing the pit ponies. Later he worked as an ARP Warden during the Second World War and as a British Railways Goods Guard until his retirement in November 1967 at the age of 70.

Also from 1939 to 1963 Robert was a Special Constable in Normanton, becoming a section leader and rising to the rank of Sergeant. He was also very keen gardener, and for many years had two and three allotments. He always said food came before flowers, but there were usually a few flowers too. During the war and times of shortage he would have as many as 60 rabbits, for our own pot and neighbours too. Spare vegetables and fruit were also sold for coppers to make a bit of money for next year’s seed.

Robert had a long and happy retirement, living latterly in Attlee Street and died aged 92 in 1990. He is buried in Altofts cemetery with Rose who had died many years before.

If he had not jumped ship, I would not have been here to tell this short tale, as there were only 5 survivors from the Invincible in the battle of Jutland.

R. Slater

Robert George Matthews .     British Army Royal Horse Artillery   from London

My Grandfather Robert George Matthews, a blacksmith before the war, served with the Royal Horse Artillery. Born in St Pancras, London ,on 2nd November 1872, the 1901 Census shows him to be working as a Farrier.

R Slater

Rfm Thomas Matthews .     British Army 12th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles   from Belfast

(d.15th Aug 1917)

S. Flynn

Pte. Thomas Matthews .     British Army 18th Btn. Durham Light Infantry

Sgt. Vernon George Matthews .     British Army 5th Dragoon Guards   from Windsor, Berkshire

s flynn

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