Thomas’s birth around 1891 missed the census of that year. He does not appear with his family living in 12 Eagles Passage in Tipton Staffordshire. The family comprised head John Matthews 35, an iron works shearer. His wife Selina was 34. Their children were Lily 10, Emma 9, Edward 7, John 3 and Fred 11months. Also living with them was 75 year old Edward Matthews, John’s father.
The next census of 1901 finds the family in Toll End Road, Tipton. John Matthews 46 worked in the Iron Works Rolls. Selina his wife was 45. The children listed were Lilly 21 a dressmaker,Emma 19 Free ****? printing, Edward 16 Tube works, John 13 Tube works, Thomas 11 and George 6.
In the 1911 cnsus the family was still in Toll End Road Tipton. John Matthews 56 was descibed as a ‘Rougher at Rolls’. His wife of 36 years Selina was 54. The children still at home were Thomas 20 – Tube Screwing and George 16 a servant porter with LNW railway, Theere was a boarder one William Taylor a 32 year old brick layer.
Thomas William Matthews’s Army Service Record survives and is accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk. Much of it is difficult to read but it gives us some good information about him.
He enlisted on 19th January 1915 in Chester. He gave his address as Toll End Road Tipton. He was promoted to S/S Corporal on 24th November 1915. (S/S Cpl means Shoeing Smith Corporal) but he asked to revert to the rank of gunner on 14th March 1916. His records contain a hand written note to his Commanding Officer which is faded in parts and not easy to read but this is a best guess
I No 78971 Corporal S/S I wish to move to permanent rank of gunner. I do not do to avoid trial by court Martial. Signed S Matthews 14/3/16 and confirmed by the signature of a Captain on 20/3/16.
There is a reference to a spell he spent in hospital in 1916 because he was sick with scabies.
There is correspondence between the army and Thomas’s mother about the receipt of his medals and personal possessions. One communication lists the items that belonged to Thomas that were being returned. It’s really difficult to read all of it but the list includes the following,
Disc, letters, photos, paper, pkt book, 2 cigs case, wallet, watch with strap, 3 coins, 2 knives, cig lighter and a set of dominoes.
Andy (?) responding to a request for information on The Army Forum supplied the following item which had appeared in the Tipton Herald on 2nd November 1918.
Toll End Soldier Falls.
Killed by a Long Range Shell
S.S. T Matthews.
Mrs Matthews of 12 Toll End Road Tipton, has received the intelligence that her son SS T Matthews 14th Brigade RFA, has made the supreme sacrifice. His Captain in the field writes that the deceased was struck in the head and instantly killed by a splinter from one of the enemy’s long range shells. At the moment of his death he was quietly at work in the wagon lines, doing his duty in the same unobtrusive way that always distinguished him. He had no pain, nor even any knowledge of the danger that approached him. He was buried in a ruined French village south west of Cambrai, called Flesquieres. The officer adds:-
“He was always happy and appreciated from the day when he first joined us. He has done his work willingly and well. He was always cheerful and ready to help in a hundred different ways that were not within the scope of his strict duty and we can ill afford to lose such men. He will be greatly missed. This is, I fear, cold comfort for the loss of a son but you may be justly proud of him and of the way he lived and died.”
Two other letters of condolence were also received, one from his sergeant and one from his comrades, in which they paid eulogistic tributes to the worth of their friend.
Deceased who was 27 years of age was up to joining up engaged at the works of Messers John Summers and Sons, Hawarden Bridge Shotton Chester. he attended the New Connexion Sunday School, Great Bridge and was for a number of years a scholar at St Martin’s Early Morning School, Tipton. He was greatly respected in the neighbourhood.
UK Soldiers Who Died in The Great War 1914-19 accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk confirms the regimental details at the top of this page and adds that he enlisted in Chester.
His medal card, apart from listing his medals, tells us that his first theatre of war was France and that he first entered it on 11th July 1915.
There are 2 x Thomas Matthews in the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 entries – the first one – Record number – 906525(See also 490/808590 – 18/19) – Possible for his War Gratuity, the sole Legatee was his mother Selena who was paid £1. 4s 6d on the 13th November 1919 and the second – Record number – 808590 (see also 555/906525- 19/20) where the sole Legatee again was his mother Selina who was paid £11. 5s 1d on the 17th February 1919 (for distn.?), 1/10d on the 14th April 1919 then his War Gratuity of £17. 10s 0d on the 1st December 1919.
There is an index card for Thomas in the Flintshire Roll of Honour held at the County Record office in Hawarden. It was signed by John Matthews (his father?). It confirms the regimental details and adds that he served for 3 years and 9 months.
Thomas William Matthews is named on the Tipton War Memorial and Tipton Roll of Honour as well as the Hawarden War Memorial.