Albert Edward Matthews was born in October 1901 in the Somerset village of Tintinhull. His father James was a glove maker, and he and his wife Mary had three children in all, Percival, born in 1897, Clementina, born in 1898, and Albert, the youngest.
Sadly, Clementina died in 1909, aged just 11 years old. Percival also passed away six years later, aged just 17. James and Mary must have been distraught when Albert announced his decision to do his bit for King and country.
He enlisted almost as soon as he was able to, joining the Royal Navy on 14th September 1918, and you can almost sense his enthusiasm to get involved before missing out on the glory of military service.
Boy Matthews was assigned to HMS Impregnable, the ship based in Devonport, Plymouth, where he was to receive his training. Standing at 5ft 8ins (1.73m) tall, with brown hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion, he was recorded as having a very good character and satisfactory ability.
Sadly, however, Albert was not destined to meet his full potential. Shortly after beginning his training, he contracted influenza and pneumonia, succumbing to the disease on 27th October 1918.
He had just turned 17 years old.
Albert Edward Matthews lies at rest in the graveyard of St Margaret’s Church in his home village of Tintinhull.
The story of this family continued to be tragic. By the time of Albert’s death, the Spanish Flu pandemic was sweeping the world and his tiny part of Somerset was in no way immune.
Just four days after Albert Matthews passed away, his mother, Mary, also fell victim to the illness.
In the space of just nine years, poor James Matthews had buried all three of his children and his wife. A newspaper reported on Mary’s funeral, recognising the “very heavy trials” he had undergone.
The same paper, reports that the influenza pandemic is fizzling out.
A large number of parishioners have been attacked with “flu”, but the epidemic is now on the wane. The school has been closed for the last fortnight.Western Chronicle: Friday 8th November 1918