War cut short for rail­way fire­man

The Invercargill Eye - - FRONT PAGE - Arnold Petrie

Mathew Spowart sur­vived 36 days at war.

The rail­way fire­man from Tu­at­a­pere was sent to France with the Otago com­pany, 13th re­in­force­ments, in Au­gust 1916.

Serv­ing as a pri­vate, he joined the charge at the bat­tle of Somme. Dur­ing the rain on Septem­ber 16, he was shot in the back. He was ad­mit­ted to the 1st Cana­dian Gen­eral Hospi­tal at Esta­ples in north­ern France. But his wounds were too se­ri­ous, and on Septem­ber 22, 1916, less than two months af­ter he joined the ef­fort, Spowart died. He was 23. He is buried at the Esta­ples Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery.

The Bat­tle of the Somme was New Zealand’s first ma­jor en­gage­ment on the Western Front. More than one in nine of the 18,000 NZ Di­vi­sion were killed.

swapped a class­room for the battlefield. The teacher from In­ver­cargill had stud­ied medicine at Otago Univer­sity be­fore the war, so he was put to work with the NZ Field Am­bu­lance on the western front. On Oc­to­ber 1, 1916, he was shot in the head and arms. He made a full re­cov­ery and he re-joined his unit.

In 1918 he trans­ferred to the in­fantry. While lead­ing his men on an at­tack on a French vil­lage, he was shot again, this time in the back and ab­domen. He died and is buried a Doul­lens com­mu­nal ceme­tery in France.

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