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Albert Edward (Ted) Matthews
Memories of an ANZAC Legend
by Scott Brown and including information from Newspaper articles printed at the time of Ted's death


Ted Matthews, the last of the original ANZACs, has died 82 years after he landed at Gallipoli and helped forge the greatest Australian legend. He was 101 years old. His death removes the last living link with the most defining moment in Australian history and the last memories of the act that began the entire tradition of ANZAC. Mr Matthews was the last survivor of the men who went ashore in the first Gallipoli landing at dawn on April 25, 1915.

Born in Leichardt in New South Wales, Australia. Ted Matthews was one of six children. A carpenter when war broke out, he had been in the Army cadets and knew how to handle a rifle. He joined the Signals Corp because he was fluent with Morse Code. Ted turned 19 on Gallipoli.

Ted was among the last men evacuated from Gallipoli on the morning of December 20, 1915 and, as he had landed in the first wave almost eight months earlier, he was a witness to the madness that was Gallipoli. He used to say he had never fired a shot at Gallipoli but, in recent years, he recalled firing off one bullet at a fleeing Turk. "I hope I missed the poor bugger," he said.

He thought the idea of the invasion was good. "if we had got through to Russia, we would have shortened the war. But they (the British) mucked it up. The planning was poor." His mind remained sharp towards the end. He recalled accurately how Winston Churchill had refused in 1911 to agree to a Turkish request for an alliance and had confiscated two Turkish ships. Germany replaced the ships and the Turks embraced the Germans.

After Gallipoli, where he was nearly one of the first casualties - having been hit in the chest by Turkish shrapnel when landing (the shrapnel was stopped by a note book in his pocket - a present from his mother) - Ted Matthews went on to fight in France and Belgium and at Villers-Bretonneux, where the Australians beat back the Germans and helped bring the war to a close.

Ted Matthews didn't much like talking about the war. Yet he did, as if talking about it, he could still serve his country and his mates who died. So when this old Australian was asked every ANZAC and Rememberance Day what he thought about war, he put aside his disgust for the subject and did what he thought was his duty.

He spoke about the folly of war, of why Australians and others had marched too quickly to it, and why it should be avoided at all costs. "The whole point of ANZAC Day has been lost," he said on the eve of last ANZAC Day. "It's not for old diggers to remember, it's for survivors to warn the young about the dangers of romanticising war."

The people of Australia honoured the contributions Ted Matthews made to his country by giving him a State Funeral with full military honours.

The following is a compilation of newspaper articles published the day after Ted Matthews' State Funeral

Last of the living joins ghosts of Gallipoli

The last surviving man who landed on the first day of the Gallipoli campaign died on Wednesday December 11 1997 - aged 101.

Gallipoli veteran Ted Matthews, 101, who landed on April 25, 1915, was one of 50,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders who fought at Gallipoli and founded the ANZAC tradition during the nine-month ordeal. A signaller with the 1st Division Signals, Mr Matthews was lucky to have survived the first day of the campaign., a hunk of Turkish shrapnel hit him in the chest on landing. A thick notebook (a present from his mother) in his pocket saved his life.

Seven Australians and one New Zealander who fought at Gallipoli and created the word ANZAC are still alive, but Ted was the last to have landed on that first, awful day and, since he was among the last evacuated on the night of December 19 and morning of December 20, he had stayed longer on the peninsular than any other.

Despite the passing of 83 years he could vividly remember mates shot dead in the landing boats; others drowning with heavy poacks and rifles in the deep water and he also could still smell their rotting corpses just the other side of the trench while he was trying to eat, saying "war does terrible things to you." And Mr Matthews was brutally honest about how they "landed a mile too far south on the wrong beach" how "the British mucked the whole thing up" and how Australia "learned nothing at all from Gallipoli."

He used to say he had never fired a shot at Gallipoli but, in recent years, he recalled firing off one bullet at a fleeing Turk. "I hope I missed the poor bugger," he said. Ted thought the idea of the invasion was good. "If we had got through to Russia, we would have shortened the war. But they mucked it up. The planning was poor."

His mind remained sharp towards the end. He recalled, accurately, how Winston Churchill had refused in 1911 to agree to a Turkish request for an alliance and had confiscated two Turkish ships. germany replaced the ships and the Turks embraced the Germans.

After Gallipoli, Ted Matthews went on to fight in France and Belgium and at Villers-Bretonneux where the Australians beat the Germans and helped win the war.

Born in Leichardt, NSW, Ted was one of six children. A carpenter when war broke out, he had been in the Army Cadets and knew how to handle a rifle. He joined the Signals because he knew Morse Code. He turned 19 at Gallipoli. Back home after the war, he returned to carpentry, married, had two girls and felt the depression harder than the war. he set up a travelling library, from a motor bike with sidecar, and later made soft drinks. he tried to enlist for World War II but was rejected because of his age.

After his wife Stella died, he married her best friend, Freda Corlett. When she died, he went to live with his daughter Irene in Florida, returning to Australia so as not to be a burden. He is survived by one daughter and nine grandchildren.

"The whole point of ANZAC day has been lost," Mr Matthews said on the eve of last ANZAC Day, "It's not for old diggers to remember, it's for survivors to warn young people against romaticising war."

Mr Matthews wanted to deliver one last message and, now the Last Post has played for him he would like it passed on: "For God's sake do not glorify Gallipoli - it was a terrible mistake and young people should be told that everything went wrong because of those fool British. Australia should never serve under a foreign power again and never use conscription for overseas service."

Mr Ted Matthews, was one of the fine group of brave young men who who created for Australia the ANZAC legend, encompassing the spirit of courage, mateship and determination.

The NSW and Australia Governments honoured Ted Matthews and all his fellow Gallipoli campaigners by giving Mr Matthews a full State funeral.

Sources : Mr Ted Matthews, The Brisbane Courier Mail newspaper and the The Australian Newspaper.

LEST WE FORGET


The following links will take you to pages that contain more information on the Gallipoli campaign and World War 1 in general.


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Last modified: May 20, 2006