Australia — Australian World War I soldier remembered at Menin Gate

Pri­vate Alan James Math­er of the 33rd Bat­tal­ion, Aus­tralian Impe­r­i­al Force, was today remem­bered at the Menin Gate Memo­r­i­al to the Miss­ing, Ieper (Ypres), Bel­gium.

Pri­vate Mather’s rel­a­tives, rep­re­sent­ed by great niece, Kim Blom­field and nephew John Math­er, today joined Dr Bren­dan Nel­son Ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, Bel­gium and Lux­em­bourg and the Chief of Army Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Ken Gille­spie in a solemn remem­brance cer­e­mo­ny led by the Last Post Asso­ci­a­tion.

Wreaths were laid for Pri­vate Math­er, who was one of the 6,178 Aus­tralian men killed in action, with no known grave from World War I, and one of 54,896 sol­diers who lost their lives on the West­ern Front.

Pri­vate Mather’s great niece Ms Kim Blom­field said he will be for­ev­er remem­bered.

“It’s the last night that my great uncle’s name is rel­e­vant here at the Menin Gate because he is no longer miss­ing. As a fam­i­ly we’ve all grown up know­ing about our uncle, great uncle and great, great uncle who was killed in the war and had no known grave, now we know where he was killed how he was killed and we now know where he will be buried,” Ms Blom­field said.

Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Ken Gille­spie said it was a soul-search­ing place to vis­it, and a fit­ting way to allow fam­i­ly to pay their respects.

“I find it to be a par­tic­u­lar­ly soul-search­ing place to vis­it, espe­cial­ly when the buglers are play­ing, it is spine chill­ing. You look at the thou­sands upon thou­sands of names here on the walls and under­stand that none of these peo­ple have any known graves.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to the cer­e­mo­ny tomor­row very much. To be able to give one of our fall­en a grave and a name and a fam­i­ly inscrip­tion at the bot­tom of it is tru­ly spe­cial,” Gen­er­al Gille­spie said.

There are many organ­i­sa­tions and peo­ple who need to be recog­nised as mak­ing this iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pos­si­ble — the Archae­o­log­i­cal team from No Man’s Land and their many pro­fes­sion­al links and part­ners, mem­bers of the Aus­tralian Army His­to­ry Unit, the Bel­gium Nation­al Insti­tute for Crim­i­nol­o­gy, and of course the Math­er fam­i­ly, who gen­er­ous­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion process.

Tomor­row, the Aus­tralian Army will bury Pri­vate Math­er at Prowse Point Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery, Ploeg­steert. Mem­bers of Australia’s Fed­er­a­tion Guard will car­ry Pri­vate Math­er to his final rest­ing place. He will be buried with full mil­i­tary hon­ours in a cer­e­mo­ny attend­ed by mem­bers of the Math­er fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty and mil­i­tary dig­ni­taries.

He was killed in action in the Bat­tle of Messines on 8 June 1917.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia