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.
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