Private 16634 William Thomas Matthews

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Died of Wounds on Saturday, 17th February 1917, age 20.
Buried in Grave IV. G. 7. at Douchy-Les-Ayette British Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 6th Brigade of 2nd Division.

Son of William and Mary Matthews, of 109 High Street, Princes End, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed Balkans, 11th September 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the St. John's Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/583001/

Genealogical Data

Birth of William Thomas Matthews registered June quarter 1896 in Dudley.

The following entry from the 1901 Census is likely to be the correct Matthews family, but the age for William incorrectly recorded. The parents’ full names and ages are correct, the occupation is correct, and the address very close to William's home in 1891. Also, there was no birth of William Matthews recorded in Dudley during 1900 to 1901 so suggesting that the age for William junior is incorrect.
1901 Census
30 Wood Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William H. Matthews (28, Blast Furnace Fitter, born Tipton), his wife Mary Ann (27, born Tipton), and their son: William (3 months, born Tipton). Also Nelly Lane (3, Visitor, born Tipton).

1911 Census
20 Gordon Street, Knutton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs.
William Matthews (38, Furnaceman, born Kates Hill, Dudley), his wife Mary A. (37, born Tipton), and their 4 surviving children of 12: William T. (15, Brick Kiln Lad, born Tipton), Harold (8, born Tipton), Reginald (5, born Knutton), and Hannah Beatrice (6 weeks, born Knutton).

In 1917, William's Pension Card shows his mother's address as 109 High Street, Princes End, Tipton.

Personal Data

William first landed in Gallipoli on 11th September 1915, so was initially with the 7th South Staffs; this is confirmed by his Medal Roll. The German Prisoner of War document at the bottom of this page (courtesy of The Red Cross) shows the detail recorded for William. The translation reads " Died 17.2.17 in the Casualty Clearing Station of the 17th Infantry Division. Reported by "A.O.K.1.“ Intelligence Officer.

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £4/7/9d (4 pounds, 7 shillings and 9 pence); this was paid to his mother, Mary A. Matthews, in February 1918. His War Gratuity was £9/0/0d (9 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his mother in October 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in approximately January 1915.

William's mother, Mrs Mary A. Matthews, was awarded a Dependant's Pension of 6/0d (6 shillings) per week, effective from 23rd October 1917.

St. John's Memorial commemorates WT Mathews (with a single t). This is without doubt an error by the transcriber or stonemason and should be WT Matthews.

Action resulting in his death

The attack on Miraumont Farm February 17th 1917 (from "Old Foleyans")
February 17th was set for an attack on Baillecourt Farm, which if won would give command of the western approaches to Miraumont. The Battalion left their billets in the evening of February 16th, the cloudy weather resulted in a pitch black night, and the thaw made the going very difficult. The Germans evidently expected the attack, and their artillery shelled the British fronts and forming-up places continuously.

At 5.45am on February 17th, the British barrage opened and the assaulting lines began to crawl forward. For some time the position was rather obscure. The Battalion gained the objective but was subject to heavy machine gun fire and the casulaties were heavy. Afterwards it was discovered that the attack had been given away, and the German line strongly reinforced with men and machine guns.

Some objectives of the day were attained, but three Tipton men (Fletcher, Westwood and Matthews), were to lose their lives on this day. The ground captured gave the British good observation over the upper Ancre Valley, and the Germans subsequently withdrew from Pys and Miraumont to minimise their casualties.

Documents released by the CWGC in 2014 show that William was initially buried in Favreuil German War Cemetery, and was re-buried in Douchy-les-Ayette British Cemetery in 1924. This confirms the newspaper reports that he had died as a prisoner of war.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 14 April 1917
The following Tipton Soldiers are reported missing, Private WB Jukes (survived), W. Matthews (killed in action 17/2/17) and W Westwood (killed in action 17/2/17), all of the South Staffs.

Birmingham Daily Post 16th June 1917
The following casualties amongst warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men are reported under various dates:
SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE REGIMENT- Matthews, 16634, W., (Tipton).

Tipton Herald 30 June 1917
Private William Matthews, of 109 High Street, Princes End, Tipton, is another Black Country lad to fall in action. When only eighteen years of age he joined up. This was on December 28 of 1914. He saw service in the distant war zone, and was also fighting at the Dardanelles. After that he went to another part of the theatre of war where he was wounded and died in German hands on the 17th February of the present year. The late Private Matthews was with the South Staffordshire Regiment, and it is a touching circumstance that during the whole time he was in the army, he never had the good luck to receive a furlough.

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German POW record for William Matthews from the Red Cross.