Mates family shares their story of World War One tragedy

Thousands of names have been etched on memorials around the world to commemorate and honour those who have given their lives to war efforts. The Mates family from Middlesbrough in England has three family members’ names etched on World War One memorial, the Cenotaph, on Middlesbrough’s Southbank.

On the 100th anniversary of World War One, the Mates family remembers their family’s tragedy. Brothers, William, Henry and James Mates, all joined the armed forces to fight in World War One. Sadly, none of them returned. Their descendants Kathleen and Margaret have told the story of the three brothers and how they lost their lives.

Henry joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a stoker on HMS Formidable; he died at the age of 34 when the ship was destroyed by the Germans in the English Channel in 1915. Less than a third of the 750 crewmen survived on its journey to take troops to France. Henry’s name is etched on the Chatham Naval Memorial, alongside his fellow crew who lost their lives.

William, the eldest brother at 37, became a corporal in the 1st Battalion East Yorks Regiment. He was killed in actionin 1917 at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France. While military records have been destroyed since then, a newspaper at the time recorded that he was awarded the Military Medal. William left behind his wife, Alice and four children, the Gazette Live reports.

James, the youngest brother at 27, was a private in the 18th Battalion, 23rd Light Trench Mortar Battery Durham Light Infantry. While it cannot be confirmed, it is thought that he died just before the end of the war in a battle at Cambrai, northern France.

In addition to the three brothers, they had a fourth who survived the war.  Owen Mates served with the Royal Navy and survived the Battle of Jutland.

Their ancestor, Kathleen, wanted to share the family’s story during the centenary celebrations of World War One to honour their memory. She says her family are extremely proud of their actions, and believes that she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the brave soldiers that gave their lives. She says it was the ultimate sacrifice.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE