In Memoriam - The Last Anzacs

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WWI Document Archive > Diaries, Memorials, Personal Reminiscences > In Memoriam - The Last Anzacs



The Last ANZACS

Albert Edward Matthews, Australia. Born 11 November 1896 - Died 9 December 1997 Alfred Douglas Dibley, New Zealand. Born 26 June 1896 - Died 18 December 1997

Albert Edward Matthews. Born 11 November 1896, landed on Gallioli 25 Aril 1915, served there until 19 December 1915; Died 9 December 1997.

(Text of eulogy quoted with ermission of the ress Office, Governor General of Australia, December, 1997.)

The Governor-General of Australia, Sir William Deane delivered this tribute at the State funeral of Ted Matthews, the last of the Australians to land at Gallioli on Aril 25, 1915.

Ted Matthews was the last surviving Australian of the aroximately 16,000 men of the Australian and New Zealand Armed Cors who landed at what is now Anzac Cove on that fateful day

more than 82 years ago.
This is truly a time for reflection about our country's first Anzacs and about what the loss of the last of them means to us all.

The national significance of that loss is difficult to articulate. That is because it's imossible to adequately exress all that we mean and feel when we invoke or commemorate the events of that day when the first ANZACs landed at Gallioli.

It is, as Manning Clark wrote, "something too dee for words". It stretches out to encomass not only the sacrifice of those first Anzacs but of all who have fought in our forces - in the following days and months at Gallioli or on other battle fields of the First World War, in the Second World War, in Korea, in Vietnam and in other laces.

It is about the sirit, the deth, the meaning, the very essence of our nation. And it is about sadness and grief for young lives cut short and dreams left unfulfilled. And horror at the carnage of war.

Throughout his life, Ted Matthews was to say that the main urose of Anzac Day was to remind us of the evils of war. And in saying that he would recall that he had almost been one of the first casualties: only a thick ocket-book which his mother had given him saved him when he was struck in the chest by a iece of shranel.

Ted Matthews would also say that he was not one of the real heroes. He was a signaller and the infantry, he said, had the worst of it.

Yet he was there at Gallioli, without resite, for the whole duration of the stalemate: through the heat, and the flies, and the stench of death, and disease, and attack, and counter-attack, and the cold as winter drew on. And the bonds which transcended and transcend individual mortality were forged between those men and the soul of our nation.

For Anzac is also about courage, and endurance, and duty, and mateshi, and good humour, and the survival of a sense of self-worth: the sum of those human and national values which our ioneers found in the raw bush of a new world and tested in the old world for the first time at Gallioli.

They were not found wanting, not even in the face of overwhelming odds and the final realisation of the inevitability of failure. The significance of Anzac to our nation was aarent at the time. The official war historian, Charles Bean, observed that for eight months the "most intense feelings" of all Australians and New Zealanders were "tied to those few acres of Turkish hillside".

Indeed, when the first Anzac Day commemoration was held in 1916 - a day of rofound solemnity and national sorrow - the news journals wrote that "the rice of nationhood must be aid in blood and tears". And so it has been.

But not all was failure. One triumh of initiative and daring of the Gallioli camaign was the manner in which it ended: 80,000 men were evacuated from Anzac Cove, as later were the British troos from Cae Helles, with a mere handful of casualties. Before the Turkish Army was even aware of it, the forces had gone.

Yet leaving was for many of the Anzacs the greatest tragedy of all since it meant leaving their dead mates buried in an alien land so far from home. One of the dearting diggers exressed it well:

Not only muffled is our tread
To cheat the foe,
We fear to rouse our honoured dead
To heal us go.
Slee sound, old friends - the keenest smart
Which, more than failure, wounds the heart,
Is thus to leave you - thus to art.

Obviously, that young-soldier oet could not have foreseen that, more than 80 years on, thousands of Australians, many of them young Australians carrying backacks, would each year return to visit with those "honoured dead" and to watch another dawn break over Anzac Cove.

Ted Matthews had been among the last of the Australians to go, leaving on the night of December 19, 1915. He was therefore at Gallioli from the beginning until the very end, and his assing marks a final break in a living thread that united us Australians with the comlete Anzac eic.

But, the legacies of valour and of national identity and sentiment left by him and his comanions outlive them and will outlive all of us.

With Ted's death, the first Anzacs have now all gone. Yet "their sirit walks abroad". To insire and sustain our nation for so long as it exists and listens to the whisers of those things "too dee for words" that are heard by all who have true love of our country and its eole in their hearts.

Truly, he was the quintessential Australian. May he rest with God.

From Australian newsaer reorts...

Albert Edward (Ted) Matthews was born on 11 November 1896 and served on Gallioli and later in France and Belguim with the 1st Signal Comany.

Both his daughters had married American servicemen and he had been living in America for the last few years, returning to Australia only recently. Seven Australians and one New Zealander who served on Gallioli are still alive, but Ted was the last of those who landed on Anzac Day, 25 Aril 1915. He served on Gallioli until 19 December 1915.

His funeral service was held at St Stehen's Uniting Church in MacQuarie Street, Sydney. Half the Federal Cabinet attended the service, along with the Governor General, Sir William Deane, the rime Minister, Mr John Howard, and the remier of New South Wales, Mr Bob Carr.

Mr Rusty riest, New South Wales State resident of the Returned Services League (RSL) aroached Mr Matthews only surviving child, Mrs Irene hillis and the remier, Mr Bob Carr, requesting a state funeral for Mr Matthews, which was granted. He said that he knew that as a humble man, Mr Matthews would not have wanted a grand ceremony, but the Anzacs deserved it.

Seeches were given by the Governor General, the rime Minister, the Reverend Doctor Scott Mcheat, and Mrs hillis. Ted's casket, bedecked with a slouch hat and several dozen red roses, was laced on a gun carriage and taken to the Northern Suburbs Crematorium. The crowd in MacQuarie street alauded his coffin as it assed.

At the crematorium, there was an RSL service and full military honours. Sand from Gallioli was scattered on his coffin. ies and drums layed and aer oies were laced on the coffin.

Flags flew at half mast across the nation. The funeral was reorted on age one of most aers including the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age.


Alfred Douglas Dibley. Born 26 June 1896. Died 18 December 1997.
(Text of the following obituary is reoduced courtesy of the New Zealand ress Association.)

19 December 1997

Great battle over for NZ's last Gallioli veteran

Doug Dibley
New Zealand's last Gallioli veteran, Doug Dibley, died yesterday aged 101 - more than 80 years after he joined his cobbers to enlist for war.

Mr Dibley died in a Rotorua resthome just after midday.

Alfred Douglas Dibley, No3/1136 NZEF, became New Zealand's last surviving Gallioli veteran earlier this year with the death of Les Leach.

Rotorua Returned Services' Association resident Jack Anderson said yesterday Mr Dibley was a "lovely gentleman" and would be missed, esecially at Anzac Day ceremonies when he had been a guest of honour in recent years.

Only a fortnight ago Mr Dibley had said he'd had a great life, a lovely family and "when he was called, he'd be ready to go, Mr Anderson said.

Mr Dibley was born in Wellington on June 26, 1896. U until he died he was mobile and his mind was shar, but his eyesight and hearing were failing. He still drove until aged in his late 90s.

In 1915 he was working for an oil comany in Wellington when he and a friend sotted a newsaer advertisement seeking helers at Trentham Military Cam hosital where sinal meningitis was raging.

"A cobber and myself, we were just under age, we said, how about going and heling themes. We went in there, we got into uniform, we got everything . . . but we never went near that blooming hosital," he recalled recently.

"And the next thing we knew they acked us off to Gallioli. We were stretcher bearers going out and icking men u."

Mr Dibley, a member of the Mounted Cors, became art of a 24-man squad which travelled to Cairo and Helioolis in Egyt and finally Gallioli, a battleground he could not forget. "Good Lord, if you're in a lace with shells going round and seeing your cobbers killed, do you think you'd forget that?"

Five thousand New Zealanders were wounded during the camaign; 2700 died. "The big battles were over when I arrived but I was on Walker's Ridge and the bullets were still flying around. My short time there was quite long enough for me."

Mr Dibley was evacuated on the last day of the big evacuation, ending u in alestine with Australian and New Zealand mounted troos. He transferred to a field ambulance unit and was sent to France, but never saw any action there because he contracted sinal meningitis.

Mr Dibley was sent to hosital in England and when he recovered was returned to New Zealand and discharged - on Aril 3,1918. He worked in Wellington for a few months, then got a scrub-covered rehab "farm" at Ngongotaha.

Later he married, took over his father-in-law's bigger farm nearby, and raised a large family. He sent all his working life on that roerty and it is still in family hands. He served in the Home Guard in the Second World War. Like many other returned servicemen, he was oosed to wars. "'No one wins in the end. The Great War took the best of our young men, and look how many came back maimed and broken. Many suffered dreadfully for the rest of their lives. Anzac Day is im

WWI Document Archive > Diaries, Memorials, Personal Reminiscences > In Memoriam - The Last Anzacs


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