Corporal Z/1107 William Matthews

Died Home on Tuesday, 14th December 1915, age 27.
Buried in Grave C. "C." 2105. at Oldbury Cemetery, Warley, Staffs, United Kingdom.

3rd Bn., Rifle Brigade. 17th Brigade of 24th Division.

Son of Joseph and Sarah Matthews, of 241, Spon Lane, Smethwick; husband of Hannah Taylor (formerly Matthews), of 291, Dudley Rd., Tividale, Tipton
Born: West Bromwich, Enlisted: West Bromwich, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 9th February 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/364081/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
6 Grice Street, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Joseph Matthews (45, Labourer in Nut & Bolt Work, born Tipton), his wife Sarah Ann (39, born Newtown, Mon), and their 4 children: Joseph (17, Roller in Iron Mills, born West Bromwich), Jane (14, Enameller Hollowware, born West Bromwich), William (12, born West Bromwich), and Harriet (4, born West Bromwich).

1911 Census
241 Spon Lane, West Bromwich, Staffs.
Joseph Matthews (55, Watchman, born Tipton), his wife Sarah Ann (50, born Newtown, Mon), and their 7 surviving children of 10: Samuel (31, Iron Worker, born West Bromwich), Joseph (27, Tram Conductor, born West Bromwich), William (22, General Labourer, born West Bromwich), Mary (18, Castor Trade, born West Bromwich), Harriet (15, Driller, born West Bromwich), Alice (9, School, born West Bromwich), and George (5, School, born West Bromwich).

Marriage of William Matthews and Hannah Law registered December quarter 1914 in Dudley. A daughter, Minnie, was born on 17th May 1915.
Marriage of Hannah Matthews and George Taylor registered March quarter 1918 in Dudley.

Personal Data

After William's death, his army pay and allowances had been overpaid to the value of £0/13/7d (13 shillings and 7 pence). The records show that his next of kin were not informed of this Debit balance. His War Gratuity was £7/0/0d (7pounds exactly), this was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Mrs Hannah Taylor (re-married), in October 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that WIlliam had enlisted in approximately August 1914.

William's widow, Hannah. was awarded a pension of 15/0d (15 shillings) per week, effective from 24th July 1916. The Pension Card records what must have been the inquest verdict: "suicide during temporary insanity due to disease contractred on active service". This wording allowed a pension to be paid, as 'plain' suicide did not result in a pension until 1917.

Action resulting in his death

William Matthews appears to have been badly affected by his time serving with the 3rd Battalion, Rifle Brigade. He had been given leave to attend his brother's funeral for which he had sadly arrived too late. On the day he was to have returned to his unit, he took his own life. The detail can be found in the report from the Tipton Herald below.

William left a note saying "I have saved them the trouble. I hope my wife and child will be looked after". It is not clear if the '"them" he refers to is the Germans, or the British authorities.

William is buried in Oldbury Cemtery.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 18th December 1915
A shooting tragedy occurred at Dudley Road, Tividale, on Tuesday evening. Corporal William Matthews of the 3rd Rifle Brigade, being found dead with a gunshot wound in his head. The deceased, who was a native of West Bromwich, had been home for six days furlough from France. He was staying with relatives in Tividale, and should have returned to the trenches on Tuesday night. His friends went out to purchase a few presents for him, and during their temporary absence the report of a gun was heard. The relatives were summoned and deceased was found sitting in a chair, quite dead, with the muzzle of a gun in his mouth. He left a widow and one child. It is stated that he was in good health, and apparently in no way depressed at having to return to the front.
The inquest was held on Thursday afternoon at the "Britannia", Tividale, by Mr G.C. Lewis.
Hannah Matthews, deceased's wife, of 292 Dudley Road, Tividale, stated that she last saw her husband alive at six o'clock, when she went out. She returned about 7.30pm and found him dead. The deceased came over for his brother's funeral, but was too late. He had been strange in his manner, and had not looked one straight in the face.
P.C. Heatherley said that the bullet from the rifle came out of deceased's head and penetrated the ceiling. The trigger had been pulled by means of a bootlace.
The Coroner read a note which was found under the table, which said: "I have saved them the trouble. I hope my wife and child will be looked after."
The Coroner said that the poor fellow's nerves may have given way from being in the trenches. The jury returned a verdict of "Suicide during temporary insanity."