A Long Way from Bunkershill
by Martin Matthews
for a more printer-
Michael John Matthews was born in Roscrea on 7th November, 1889. His parents, Timothy and Eliza lived in Limerick Street, and in 1900 moved to the Bunkershill area of the town. Michael joined the British army prior to the outbreak of World War I. He enlisted in the Leinster Regiment, First Battalion, in Birr, Kings County. His service number was 8421. He was stationed with his battalion at Fyzabad, India in 1911.
After the outbreak of war in Europe, the battalion returned to England arriving on 16 November, 1914. The battalion was then subject to a month of rigorous training in preparation for the battlefield. The battalion was then posted to France, disembarking at Le Harve on 21 st December 1914. The Western front beckoned and the First Battalion relieved the Cameron Highlanders at Saint Elois, Flanders, on 12 th January 1915. The Leinster Regiment’s first Battalion were first drawn into action 14 th March, 1915.
Michael Matthew’s battalion were combatants in the first use of poison gas by their German counterparts in the Second Battle of Ypres in April, 1915. His life was lost in this same year when they incurred heavy losses in May at Sanctuary Wood’ Hooge. A letter sent to Michael’s mother from the Enquiry Department for wounded, missing, and prisoners of war on 30 th May 1916, detailed the heavy losses endured by the regiment against the German forces. The letter stated "the 2 nd coys. attacked under the impression that the Germans were inferior in numbers. All men reported missing on May 12 th were almost certainly killed."
While definitive proof of the death of Michael Matthews has not been ascertained, the last lines of the letter indicated what the fate of thousands in this battle was. It stated:
"We much regret having to send on such sad information, and we (are) continuing to make all possible enquiries in the hopes of gaining further news, but we fear this is not likely after so long a period.
Assuring you of our deep sympathy. "
Michael John Matthews is remembered on the Menin Gate, Ypres, panel 44, West-
Left are images of Service Medals
Top: Leinster Regiment Cap Badge)
(L to R: 1914/1915 Star; 1914/1919 Victory Medal; 1914/1918 British War Medal)