Lance Corporal 35810 Matthew Kelly

Killed in Action on Sunday, 24th March 1918, age 19.
Commemorated on Bay 6 of Arras Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

4th Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 7th Brigade of 25th Division.

Son of Mr James and Mrs Eliza Kelly, of Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1575151/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
9 Wades Passage, Tipton, Staffs.
James Kelly (34, Blast Furnaceman, born Tipton), his wife Eliza (35, born Sedgley), and their 6 children: Annie (12, born Tipton), Rose (10, born Tipton), William (9, born Tipton), James (5, born Tipton), Thomas (2, born Tipton), and Matthew (6 months, born Tipton).
I think Thomas and Matthew were recorded incorrectly, with really Matthew being 2 years old and Thomas 6 months old. This agrees with birth registration, and the 1911 census showing Matthew as 12 years old. It appears that Thomas died in September quarter 1901 before his first birthday.

1911 Census
19 Wood Street, Tipton, Staffs.
James Kelly (44, General Labourer, born Princes End), his wife Eliza (46, born Tipton), and their 6 children: William (18, General Labourer, born Tipton), James (15, General Labourer, born Tipton), Matthew (12, Scholar, born Tipton), Joseph (4, born Tipton), and Jenny (8, Scholar, born Tipton).

Personal Data

After Matthew's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £7/2/6d (7 pounds, 2 shillings and 6 pence); this was paid to his father, James, in July 1918. His War Gratuity was £4/0/0d (4 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Matthew had enlisted in February 1917.

Action resulting in his death

On March 21st 1918, the Germans commenced a major offensive referred to as Operation Michael. This attempted to break through the Allied lines and reach the French coast, before the strength of the newly-arrived United States Army made the Allied victory inevitable. In this offensive, the Germans re-gained the majority of the territory that had been hard-won by the allies since the Battle of the Somme commencing July 1st 1916.

The 4th South Staffs was one of 3 battalions in 7th Brigade of 25th Division, the other 2 being 10th Cheshires and 1st Wiltshires. The first stage of Operation Michael, from March 21st to 23rd 1918, is referred to as the Battle of St. Quentin. In this battle, the units of the 25th Division were ordered to reinforce other sorely pressed formations in a piecemeal fashion. From the opening phases of the attack until the Division was withdrawn six days later, it fought continuously under strange commanders, and not as a Division. 74th Brigade supported 51st (Highland) Division on the Bapaume-Cambrai road; 75th Brigade moved up to Favreuil to reinforce 6th Division and 7th Brigade moved up as support and took up position at Fremicourt. The Battle of St Quentin was effectively a series of fighting withdrawals, attempting to halt the German offensive. This was proving difficult to achieve, and the British defensive line was perilously close to total collapse.

The sodden mist-shrouded dawn of March 24th, Palm Sunday, led to a day of grave political and military crisis, as more ground was lost. The actions on the March 24th and 25th are referred to as the Battle of Bapaume, and were another series of fighting withdrawals. By nightfall of March 24th, Bapaume had been evacuated after unending shelling, and a new defensive live was being sought on the old 1916 Somme battlefield.

Sometime during the fighting withdrawals, 19-year old Matthew Kelly was killed. Due to the continuing nature of the withdrawals, his body was lost and never identified. He is now commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing.

By the beginning of April, the German attack had ground to a halt. Their newly-won ground covered the old Somme battlefield and the ground destroyed by the 1917 German retreat to the Hindenburg line, meaning the re-supply of ammunition and food was difficult. The British line had been subject to enormous pressure and had lost significant ground, but the line had not broken and created the base for the subsequent advance to victory in the final 100 days.

Newspaper Cuttings

Birmingham Daily Post 13th May 1918
South Staffs Regiment, Kelly, 35810, Lce-Corpl., M., (Tipton).