Rank or Title
Date of Birth
4 Aug 1880
Date of Death
30 Mar 1918
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
War Memorial Location
Soldier or Civilian
Pte William Mather, 202793, 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment, is recorded as killed in action in France on March 30th, 1918. He had been Superintendent of the Beech Hill Children's Homes in Dunstable Road, where his wife Emily was Matron.
William had joined the Colours 18 months previously, rising to Corporal but reverting to Private on going out to France. He was initially reported as missing.
Lancashire-born William was appointed labour master at Union House in Dunstable Road by the Luton Board of Guardians in November 1910. His then wife-to-be Emily Lizzie Kirkby was appointed cook there at the same time. They married in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, later the same month.
In May 1912 the couple were appointed Superintendent and Matron respectively at the Beech Hill Homes. The Board of Guardians at a meeting in April 1918 sent a letter of sympathy to Mrs Mather, with the hope that he may still be alive as a prisoner of war.
Mrs Mather continued to seek information about her husband's fate. In November 1919, as reported in the Tuesday Telegraph of the 25th, the Red Cross Enquiry Department sent a lengthy but inconclusive report to her.
It read: “We much regret to say that notwithstanding constant and careful enquiries, we never succeeded in hearing anything of your husband. His name was on our lists for months, and we asked all the men of his unit whom we were able to see, both in English hospitals and at the bases abroad, but none of them threw any light on this casualty. We have also questioned released prisoners, but have learnt nothing. We can therefore only send you a general account of the action in which he was last seen, with sincere regret at our inability to help you any further, as this office is not closed. We wish at the same time to offer our sympathy to the family and friends.”
Reports were enclosed showing that the 1st Herts formed part of the Fifth Army, and were in positions on the Cambrai front in March 1918. On March 21st the German Army, in overwhelming strength, made an unexpected attack on the Fifth Army, and eventually compelled it to retreat almost to Amiens, thereby leaving a large extent of territory in enemy possession.
For more than a week afterwards there was terrific fighting, every foot of ground being stubbornly contested, but the German advance prove irresistable and at times necessitated such rapid withdrawals on the British side that there was no possibility of bringing away the wounded, or of identifying the dead. The 1st Herts were heard of at Gouzeaucourt on March 21st, and other stages in their retirement were Epehy, Villers-Faucon, Peronne, Bray and Villers Bretonneux.
The report, presented at a meeting of the Luton Board of Governor, meant Mrs Mather could not legally receive the amount Mrs Mather's husband had paid in superannuation, but the Board decided to give her the amount as a gratuity in lieu.