William Mathews

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William Mathews
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Personal Information
Date of Birth 8 Jul 1885
Place of Birth Canning Mills, Western Australia
Death 9 Apr 1945, aged 59
Place of Death North Dandalup, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 30 years, 1 month
Description 5'9" (1.75m) tall ; 155 lbs
70.307 kg
; fresh complexion ; grey eyes ; fair hair
Occupation Sleeper cutter
Religion Baptist
Address Keysbrook, Western Australia
Next of Kin Mother , Mrs Kate Taylor
Military Information
Reg Number 3191
Date of Enlistment 6 Sep 1915
Rank Private
Unit/Formation 28th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement / 7th Brigade, 2nd Division
Date of Embarkation 18 Jan 1916 ‒ 16 Feb 1916
Ship Embarked On HMAT A7 Medic
Date of Return 16 Jun 1919 ‒ 24 Jul 1919
Ship Returned On RMS Ormonde
Fate Wounded in Action 29 Jul 1916 Poziéres
Returned to Australia
Monument Keysbrook Roll of Honour
Medals British War Medal
Victory Medal



Pre War

War Service

Nine days after arrival at Alexandria in Egypt (25 Feb 1916), Bill was admitted to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Heliopolis until 6 Mar 1916 with Influenza, delaying his being taken on strength by the 7th Training Battalion in Zeitoun.

On 21 Mar 1916 he boarded SS Oriana for Marseilles, arriving on 27 Mar 1916. He was taken on strength by the 28th Battalion on 3 May 1916, and that evening they were in the trenches being heavily bombed with aerial torpedoes. Artillery fire was central to Bill's war experience from here on.

Bill was wounded in action on 29 Jul 1916 during an attack on the German trenches OG1 and OG2 north of Poziéres. Although they had made good progress, ultimately the combined rifle, machine gun and artillery fire that met them forced their withdrawal to the positions held by them earlier. The casualties were severe, with the battalion losing 523 men for the month, almost all of them between Midnight and 2.15 am on 29 July. With 63 dead, and 257 missing, the blow to the battalion was substantial.

Bill was seen by the 4th Casualty Clearing Station, before being placed on an Ambulance Train for the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Wimereux on 30 Jul 1916.

Embarked on HS Jan Breydel for England from Boulogne on 8 Aug 1916, he was admitted to the Northumberland War Hospital in Gosford, Newcastle-on-Tyne with a shell wound to the left forearm. On 31 Aug 1916 he was transferred to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, before being released to No. 1 Command Depot in Perham Downs on 13 Oct 1916. In turn he was transferred to No 4 Command Depot at Wareham on 27 Oct 1916.

On 24 Dec 1916 Bill was charged with having been AWOL from 7:00pm on 24 Dec 1916 until 31 Dec 1916, for which he was awarded 168 hours detention and forfeiture of 16 days pay. On 23 Mar 1917 he was transferred to the 70th Battalion, but on 2 Apr 1917 he was charged again with having been AWOL, this time from 'Tattoo' on 1 Apr until he reported 10 minutes later. Seven days Field Punishment was the price paid.

On 19 Sep 1917 he was transferred to the 69th Battalion in England, and on 9 Dec 1917 he proceeded overseas to France a second time, this time through Southampton, rejoining the 28th Battalion on 23 Dec 1917 with nine others who had recovered from wounds or illness. They did so as the battalion moved back into front line trenches at Ploegsteert.

Bill was the subject of a Field General Court Martial on 29 Apr 1918, charged with 'When on Active Service, Desertion' the details being that he was AWOL from 6:00pm on 15 Apr 1918 till 1:00pm 20 Apr 1918 (6 days). The finding was Guilty and the punishment 7 years imprisonment.

Transferred to the No.7 Military Prison at Les Attaques inland from Calais, he arrived there on 26 May 1918. On 5 Jun 1918 his sentence was commuted to 2 years. The sentence was then suspended on 13 Sep 1918, and two days later he rejoined the 28th Battalion in the field.

Prior to going AWOL, the battalion had been in the Front line from the 9th till the 11th, and the Support line from the 12th. They returned to the Front line on the 18th in Bill's absence. On most days during the previous 2 weeks several men were killed and a number wounded each day by enemy artillery fire. This on top of his experience at Poziéres where the Australians had been very heavily bombarded may have contributed to his absence from the line. In similar circumstances most British soldiers, when convicted, were given a death sentence. Not all of which were carried out.

At the time of the Armistice the battalion was resting and rebuilding in the small village of Berteaucourt, north-west of Amiens. Soon after the Armistice the 28th Battalion and the rest of the Australian 7th Brigade s initially earmarked as part of the British 4th Army to relocate to Coblenz as part of the Army of Occupation. They began their move on 23 Nov 1918, travelling through Amiens and Peronne by train, and then marched via stops at Busigny, Ribeauville, Grand Fayt, Beaufort, and Cousolre into Belgium. At this point it was decided that the Australian troops would not proceed into Germany, but wait in Belgium for their return to Australia, with the 28th Battalion basing itself in Marcinelle, some 2 miles from the large industrial city of Charleroi.[1]

From 11 - 25 Jan 1919, Bill was granted leave in the UK, and on 16 Feb 1919 the unexpired portion of his sentence was remitted by the General Officer Commanding the 7th Brigade. On 12 Mar 1919 he was part of a draft sent back to the UK to prepare for return to Australia.

Discharged 5th Military District 7 Sep 1919.

Post War

In 1921 Bill married Mary Ann Beresford in the Murray district.

Electoral Roll entries - 1922 Newtown, Jarrahdale, mill hand; 1931 - 1937 Whittaker's Mill, North Dandalup timber worker; 1943 in North Dandalup, relief worker

During WW2 Bill served in the militia from 23 Jul 1941 until 12 Apr 1944 with Regimental No. W26607.

Notes

  1. The 28th Battalion AIF - A Record of War Service. Henry K. Kahn. Hesperian Press.

External Links