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By Leonie Gall
IT'S TAKEN 93 years but World War I
digger Pte Alan James Mather is finally at
rest with his mates.
Pte Mather, 33rd Bn AIF, was laid to rest
at the Prowse Point Military Cemetery on the
Ypres Salient in Belgium on July 23.
He was one of 216,000 Australian, New
Zealand and UK soldiers who fought the
Battle of Messines in west Flanders from
June 7-14, 1917.
Pte Mather also was one of the 54,896
Australian soldiers who lost their lives on the
Western Front and one of the 6178 diggers
missing and buried in an unknown grave.
He was killed in action on June 8, 1917.
Family members great niece Kim
Blomfield and nephew John Mather were
joined by Australian dignitaries including CA
Lt-Gen Ken Gillespie to remember the fallen
Ms Blomfield said Pte Mather would be
forever remembered. "As a family, we've all
grown up knowing about our uncle, great
uncle and great-great uncle who was killed in
the war and had no known grave," she said.
"Now we know where he was killed, how
he was killed and we now know where he
will be buried."
Pte Mather was carried by members of
Australia's Federation Guard to his final rest-
ing place at Prowse Point Cemetery.
He was buried with the same military
honours and treatment as his WWI mates
had his remains been discovered in the post-
battlefield clearances in 1919 and 1921.
Australian Ambassador to the European
Union, Belgium and Luxembourg Brendan
Nelson said the Australian nation was proud
of the exceptional service Pte Mather gave to
He said as a young man Pte Mather
had served as a second-lieutenant with the
Inverell Troop of the NSW Mounted Rifles
from 1901 to 1903.
"With the commencement of WWI, Alan
was already 35 years old -- he could have left
the fighting to men 15 years or more his jun-
ior," Dr Nelson said.
"But such was his spirit, and the spirit of
the times, that he left his comfortable life in
rural NSW and responded to the call to arms."
Lt-Gen Gillespie said the ceremony was
a fitting way to allow family to pay their
"I find it to be a particularly soul-search-
ing place to visit, especially when the buglers
are playing, it is spine chilling. You look at
the thousands upon thousands of names here
on the walls and understand that none of
these people have any known graves."
A remembrance ceremony for Pte Mather
was held the day before the funeral at the
Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.
Ms Blomfield was among those who laid
a wreath in Pte Mather's honour. "It's the last
night my great uncle's name is relevant here
at the Menin Gate because he is no longer
missing," Ms Blomfield said.
"These men paid the ultimate sacrifice and
today's ceremony has given families an
opportunity to pay their last respects at a
known grave," Mr Griffin said.
"Ninety-six Australians have now been
named through a combination of anthropo-
logical, archaeological, historical and DNA
"There is a very good chance that further
soldiers will be identified if more families
come forward to assist."
Of those recovered, 205 have been identi-
fied as Australian, three served with the British
Army and 42 are still classified as unknown,
with many headstones still reading "A soldier
of the Great War. Known unto God".
Many of the families were invited to pay
tribute at their gravesides in a reflection ser-
vice after the cemetery was opened.
Even though most had never met their bat-
tlefield relatives, it was the first chance they
could properly say thank you and goodbye --
closure so deserving.
Reinterment of the soldiers discovered
in 2008 and recovered from a mass grave at
Pheasant Wood began on January 30 this year
and is now complete.
Army August 5, 2010
for fallen soldiers
Rest at last for
Final journey: Chaplain Lt-Col
Catie Inches-Ogden precedes the
bearer party into Prowse Point
Cemetery for Pte Alan Mather's
reburial ceremony (above) as
CA Lt-Gen Ken Gillespie shakes
hands with flag bearers.
Photos by Sgt Rob Nyffenegger
Sign of respect: Australian and British soldiers fire volleys
in honour of the fallen soldiers from the Battle of Fromelles.
Photo by Sgt Rob Nyffenegger
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