Lionel Colin Matthews

Infobox Military Person
name= Lionel Matthews

caption= Capt Lionel Colin Matthews
born= Birth date|1912|8|15
died= Death date and age|1944|3|2|1912|8|15|df=yes
placeofbirth= Stepney, South Australia
placeofdeath= Kuching, Malaysia
allegiance= flagicon|Australia Commonwealth of Australia
branch= Second Australian Imperial Force
unit=8th Division (Australia)
awards=George Cross
Military Cross
Captain Lionel Colin Matthews, GC, MC (Birth date|1912|8|15 - Death date|1944|3|2) was an Australian Army Signals Corps officer awarded the George Cross in recognition of gallant and distinguished services whilst a prisoner-of-war in Japanese hands during the Second World War.

Early life

Matthews was born in Stepney, a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. He was married to Myrtle, and was a salesman prior to the War.

Army Service

He enlisted with the Australian Military Forces in Caulfield, Victoria on 10 June1940. He joined the 8th Division on 12 July1940. He arrived in Singapore with his unit on 18 February1941. Following the outbreak of hostilities with the Empire of Japan, he was awarded the Military Cross for outstanding conduct during operations in MalayaLondonGazette |issue= 37425 |linkeddate= 1946-01-08 |startpage= 380 |supp= |accessdate= 2008-06-16 ] cite web|url= |title=Military Cross - MATTHEWS, Lionel Colin |accessdate=2008-06-16 |work=It's an Honour |publisher=Australian Government ] . The citation read cite web|url= |title=Service Record - VX24597 - Matthews, Lionel - p6 |accessdate=2008-06-16 |work=National Archives of Australia |publisher=Australian Government ] :

"During operations at GEMAS this officer succeeded in maintaining cable communications between his Brigade HQ and units under heavy artillery and mortar fire and serial bombardment, displaying a high standard of courage, energy and ability in doing so. Later during the operation on Singapore Island Capt Matthews succeeded in laying a cable over ground strongly patrolled by the enemy and thus restoring communication between his Divisional HQ and the HQ of a Brigade at a critical period."
Matthews was subsequently promoted to Captain on 21 January1942.

Prisoner of War

He was interned by the Japanese in the notorious Changi prison after the fall of Singapore on 15 February1942. He was transferred to Sandakan, Borneo, with nearly fifteen hundred other Australians, and was able to set up contacts with allied agents and sympathisers. He collected information to relay to these contacts and helped organise prisoner escapes with Filipino guerrillas.

The Japanese learnt of his role and arrested Matthews and others. They were interrogated, tortured and starved before being sentenced to death. Despite his ordeal he refused to betray his colleagues or any details of their resistance planning. Matthews was shot by firing squad, along with two members of the Borneo constabulary and six other Asians on the 2 March1944 at Kuching.

In 1946 his body was exhumed and laid to rest in the Labuan War Cemetery in grave J.B.15 cite web|url= |title=Casualty Details - Lionel Matthews |accessdate=2008-06-16 |work=Labuan War Cemetery |publisher=Commonwealth War Graves Commission ] .

George Cross

Following the war, Matthews was awarded the George Cross for his actions whilst a prisoner. The award was gazettedLondonGazette |issue= 38134 |linkeddate= 1947-11-25 |startpage= 1 |supp= |accessdate= 2008-06-16 ] cite web|url= |title=George Cross - MATTHEWS, Lionel Colin |accessdate=2008-06-16 |work=It's an Honour |publisher=Australian Government ] in 1947.

The citation reads cite web|url= |title=Service Record - VX24597 - Matthews, Lionel - pp34-36 |accessdate=2008-06-16 |work=National Archives of Australia |publisher=Australian Government ] :

"Captain Matthews was as a prisoner of war held by the Japanese in Sandakan, Borneo between August 1942 and March 1944."
"During this period although in captivity he directed personally an underground intelligence organization. By sheer determination and organization he arranged through native contacts for the delivery of sorely needed medical supplies, food and money into the camp - factors which not only kept up the morale of courage of the prisoners but which undoubtedly saved the lives of many."
"He was instrumental in arranging a radio link with the outside world and was able to send weekly news bulletins to the civil internees on Berhala Island. He was also responsible for arranging for the delivery of fire arms to a secret rendezvous for future use."
"Captain Matthews gained the confidence of H.E. the Governor of British North Borneo - himself an internee in that area - and was appointed to Command (although still a PW) the North British Armed Constabulary. At great danger he organized that body in readiness for a rising against the Japanese and also organized a movement amongst the loyal native population in Sandakan for a similar purpose. He gained contact with the Guerrilla Forces in the Phillipines and successfully organized escape parties. His ultimate object was to link up with outside forces and to stage eventually a resistance movement and insurrection at the first opportunity."
"These activities of Captain Matthews were carried out at the greatest peril to himself at all times. His contact with the natives was on a doubtful basis and he was in constant danger of betrayal and death. He accepted these risks fearlessly and showed the greatest courage and enterprise, although beaten and tortured by the Japanese."
"He was in a position where he could have escaped on numerous occasions by means of the help of an organization set up by the Chinese but he declined, electing to remain where his efforts could aleviate the sufferings of his fellow prisoners."
"He displayed the greatest gallantry in circumstances of the gravest danger. His leadership conduct, unflagging optimism and impertability were an inspiration to all closely associated with him in the resistance organization and to his fellow prisoners."
"After his arrest by the Kempei Tai Capt. Matthews showed courage of the highest order. He steadfastly refused to make admissions under brutal torture, beatings and starvation to implicate or endanger the lives of his associates. His conduct at all times was that of a very brave and courageous gentleman and he worthily upheld the highest traditions of an Australian Officer."

Honours and awards


External links

* [ History of the Royal Australian Signals Corps] , with portrait of CAPT Matthews and details of his service

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