Each year, at this time, I think of my Pop, Corporal H Matthews (pictured left), who fought in World War One (WWI), and my Dad, Petty officer HF Matthews (pictured right), who served in the Navy in World War Two (WWII), writes Matthews Steer CEO Ken Matthews.
Pop came to Australia from Tottenham, London, England as a 16-year-old to work on farms at Birregurra and Leongatha, where he joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) after the outbreak of WWI, to serve for King and Country.
Pop fought at Gallipoli with the 24th Battalion, and then moved on to France and the Western Front where he lost a lung from mustard gas at the second battle of Bullecourt. While in England recuperating from his wounds he married his childhood sweetheart and they moved back to Australia.
My grandparents were real pioneers, living under a wagon while their farmhouse at Hazel Park in Gippsland was built under the Soldiers Settlement Scheme. During the depression Pop, Nan and my Dad and his sisters left the farm and came to Melbourne. Pop refused to go on the ‘Susso’ (unemployment benefits) and instead took to the road in a horse and cart, selling Mitchell’s brooms and brushes to support Nan and his six children in Maribyrnong.
Pop was an honest, hardworking man. A man of principle. He didn’t smoke until he was at Gallipoli where he took up the habit, and with only one lung he died at the age of 71 from pneumonia.
During his younger years, Dad ran away from home a number of times and left school at 14 years old during the Great Depression. At 19 he joined the Royal Australian Navy, about six months before the start of WWII.
Dad did convoy duty from South Africa to England, and commissioned the HMAS Nestor (his favourite ship) which was in the Battle of Bismarck, the Atlantic convoys and helped to get the convoy through that saved Malta. Dad was not home for a number or years, fighting the Germans, and when he came back to Australia he joined the ill-fated HMAS Canberra, surviving its sinking at the battle of Savo Island near Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. He served on many other ships and rose to the rank of Petty Officer.
Dad loved the navy. It was his home away from home and it educated him. He eventually left the navy having married my mother Marion and had two of four children in 1950. He then joined naval inspection with the Defence Department until he retired.
Dad had a firm handshake and would look you in the eye and tell you what he thought. He built his life around the navy values of Honour, Honesty, Courage, Integrity and Loyalty, and he lived them every day of his life.
The challenges we’ve faced over the course of the pandemic are nothing in comparison to what generations of ANZACs have been through, but I believe we can draw on the spirit of the ANZACs as we continue to emerge from these testing times.
We are truly lucky to be living in the best country in the world – a country many have given their lives to defend.