Research on Mathesons who served in the New Zealand forces during the First World War has identified Mathesons from New Zealand who fought in this conflict in other forces. As New Zealand was part of the British empire it was not at all unusual for New Zealanders to enlist in other imperial forces. This article doesn’t attempt to include all Mathesons with a New Zealand connection who served in other countries’ forces, as this would be a huge job. But those I’ve come across are noted here for interest.
MATHESON, Harry MacKay
Though Harry Matheson served in the Australian and British armies, he has a New Zealand connection. When he enlisted in 1914 his next of kin was listed as his father, Angus Kenneth Matheson of Auckland. From his military record it can be gleaned that Harry was born out of wedlock, and his mother (Annie MacKay) later married and as Annie Smith lived in Thames.
Harry was born in Tangil, near Maffra in Victoria, Australia, and when he joined up at the age of 28 he was working as a chemist in Maffra. He joined the Australian Imperial Force and was quickly promoted to corporal, and served as a soldier at Gallipoli. He served in the Somme before transferring in 1916 to the (British) Royal Flying Corps, and was discharged from the Australian forces when he was commissioned as an RFC officer in 1917.
As an RFC officer he was attached to 67 Squadron in the Australian Flying Corps in Palestine, where he died later that year. Harry perished in unusual circumstances, being caught in a fierce storm on Christmas eve 1917 while escorting two visiting officers back to their squadron nearby. The entire camp spent much of Christmas day searching for him, and his body was found on Boxing Day.
Harry’s family background was a little complicated. One William Stredwick of Benalla in Victoria was noted in his files as being a foster father (undeclared), and he and his wife corresponded vigorously with the military authorities over the return of Harry’s personal effects. In letters Stredwick described Harry as his “adopted son”, and he certainly was the beneficiary of Harry’s will. The military wrote to Harry’s mother offering the medals to her, but there appears to have been no reply and they were passed to William Stredwick. There were Matheson connections in Victoria, though, with a Mrs R D Matheson of Sale, near Maffra, describing herself as Harry’s sister-in-law when writing for further information about his fate.
MATHESON, Ronald Tracey
The Auckland Weekly News has this photo of a Lieutenant R Matheson, who died in action in German Southwest Africa (now Namibia). Research has shown that Lt R T Matheson was killed on 27 April 1915 while serving in the Natal Light Horse regiment. He was buried in the Gibeon Station military cemetery, which contains South African and German dead from the battle of Gibeon on 27 April 1915.
Though he was serving with a South African unit, there must have been a New Zealand connection for him to have featured in the Auckland Weekly News. And indeed there is. Ronald Tracey Matheson was born in Tauranga in 1874 to Otumoetai farmers Robert and Sarah Matheson. Ronald was a mining agent and an veteran of the Anglo-Boer (or South African) War, when he was mentioned in dispatches. During the First World War he was a lieutenant in the Union Forces of South Africa. Ronald was the uncle of Tauranga historian Alister Hugh Matheson (1925–2011) and brother of Alister’s father (also Alister Hugh Matheson), who served in the First World War (75110) and the South African War.
He had farmed near Marton in the Rangitikei for some years, having emigrated to New Zealand largely for health reasons. At the outbreak of war he had been back in Britain for about a year. A former officer, he re-enlisted in the British Army and was killed in the early stages of the conflict.
MATHIESON, T A
This T A Mathieson, from Granity, died in action in 1918. He’s not listed in the New Zealand Cenotaph database, nor does Archives New Zealand hold a file for him, because he was serving in a British regiment.
Thomas Alexander Matheson was born at Waimangaroa, just north of Wesport, on 24 February 1887, the son of Robert Mathieson and Susannah (Susan) White. He was already in the UK before the First World War broke out, and had enlisted in the British Army at Sheffield in March 1910. He married Sarah Park in Ayr, Scotland, on 14 November 1913.
He was a 2nd Corporal in the Royal Engineers (106th Field Company) when he was killed in action at Neuve Eglise in Belgium on 17 April 1918. This village (now known as Nieuwkerke), near Ypres/Ieper, was being fought over again as part of the German spring offensive of 1918.
Photo: Auckland Weekly News 22 August 1918.
T A Mathieson is commemorated on the war memorial in Granity, on the West Coast, and also on the Tyne Cot memorial to the missing in Belgium. Thanks to Zelda Matheson and the resources of the Westport Genealogy and History Group for information about him.