ORIGINALLY a tribute to the spirit of Australian and New Zealand solders who stormed the beaches at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, Anzac Day now commemorates the lives lost and the service of all Australians in all wars.
Many families paid a high price as their sons and brothers stepped up to serve their country.
One such family was the Matthies family of the Leongatha district where brothers Herbert, Oscar and Thomas enlisted during World War One, with Oscar making the ultimate sacrifice at Gallipoli in the months after the original ANZAC landings.
Herbert and Thomas survived the war, but both were discharged medically unfit.
Honour boards throughout the district show many families also saw multiple members serve and many lost their lives.
Oscar was a 24-year-old labourer, standing 5 foot, 4 ½ inches and weighing 10 stone, 7 pounds, when he enlisted in the Eighth Light Horse Regiment AIF on December 3, 1914.
Herbert signed up next on January 15, 1915, followed by Thomas on April 3, 1916.
Trooper OJ Matthies, regimental number 903, was reported killed in action at the Gallipoli Peninsula on August 7, 1915. Official records state there was no report of his place or date of burial.
On August 1, 1916, Herbert was wounded in action in France with his injuries described in his war records as a severe penetrating wound to his chest.
His sister Mabel, listed on his enlistment papers as his next-of-kin, received notification of his injury a month later with a message that read:
“I regret to advise you that Pte HJ Matthies has been reported wounded, nature of which is not yet known here. It is not stated as being serious and in the absence of further reports it is to be assumed that all wounded are progressing satisfactorily.”
This was followed by a second message almost three weeks later that the gunshot wound was severe, and then six days later that Herbert was “convalescent”.
By October he was on a hospital ship from England to Melbourne where he was discharged medically unfit on January 30, 1917.
The family’s anguish at the loss of one brother and serious injury of another was illustrated in letters written by two of the men’s sisters pleading for information about Oscar, hoping that reports of his death were mistaken.
Mrs PJ Nicholas of Poowong wrote to the Minister for Defence on December 1, 1915 saying, “I have lately received a letter from ANZAC saying that my brother … was seen in hospital at Gallipoli. Could you inquire if there is any foundation for such a report.”
Miss M Matthies, of Roughead Street, Leongatha, sent her plea to a Colonel Hawker.
The Captain, Officer in Charge Base Records, Melbourne replied on December 8, 1915 “to inform you the report that he was killed in action … has been confirmed by Army Form B 104-52 and 2090a.”
“If you are in possession of a letter or other documentary evidence to the contrary, I will upon receipt of same, and if such action is warranted cause enquiries to be instituted and the result communicated to next-of-kin in due course,” the Captain added.
“If your informant is a member of the Australian Imperial Force, it will be necessary to furnish his name, regimental number and rank, together with the unit to which he is attached.”
Just one week before Herbert was wounded, Thomas was admitted to the 3rd AGH ex hospital train suffering “internal derangement knee joint”, also described in his medical records as a knee sprain.
His records say the symptoms started on July 10, 1916 at Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt where Thomas was based with the 6th Machine Gun Company. Private Matthies sought treatment after suffering swelling, pain and stiffness for two weeks and was shipped back to Australia in mid-August before being discharged as permanently unfit on December 11, 1916.