Hon­our­ing an ex­cep­tional mil­i­tary man

Bea­cons­field his­to­rian Don­ald Stan­ley turns the spot­light on ‘VG’ Matthews who en­joyed a dis­tin­guished ca­reer in the Army through two world wars

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLE AND PLACES -

FOR many years, Ma­jor Ver­non George Matthews’ un­mis­take­able mil­i­tary bear­ing made VG a fa­mil­iar sight in Bea­cons­field. The son of a cavalry colonel, VG was born in the early 1890s. At 18 he left home to join a Dra­goon reg­i­ment as a pri­vate.

At the com­mence­ment of the First World War, his reg­i­ment was moved to France thus rank­ing it amongst the ‘Old Con­temptibles’ who thwarted the Ger­man ad­vance on Paris.

He saw ac­tion at Mons, for which he re­ceived the Mons Star, and other ma­jor en­gage­ments.

At Ypres, he sur­vived be­ing shot in the chest and after a year back in ‘Blighty’, as home was called, re­joined the reg­i­ment to take part in the bat­tles of the Somme, Ar­ras and Cam­brai.

He en­joyed rapid pro­mo­tion and, be­cause of the heavy ca­su­al­ties, was pro­moted to Squadron Sergeant Ma­jor and, in 1918, was awarded a bat­tle­field com­mis­sion.

As he lacked the means to re­main in the cavalry, he be­came an in­fantry of­fi­cer in the Le­ices­ter­shire Reg­i­ment and was wounded again in the fi­nal Ger­man of­fen­sive.

After the war, VG was in­volved in two op­er­a­tions of which he spoke lit­tle. In Au­gust 1919, a strike by po­lice left Liver­pool un­pro­tected against wide­spread loot­ing and ri­ot­ing which was ended by the army.

The other was be­ing sent to Ire­land that Septem­ber of which he com­mented ‘sad case – no com­ments’.

There fol­lowed post­ings to Egypt and In­dia where, ac­com­pa­nied by 40 beat­ers, he spent his leave in the jun­gle.

VG left the army but as a re­servist, he was re­called upon the out­break of the Sec­ond World War and pro­moted to the rank of ma­jor. He was a mil­i­tary ad­viser to the Aux­il­iary Ter­ri­to­rial Ser­vice or ATS which was the women’s ranch of the army and ater ful­filled the role as a om­man­dant of two Ger­man pris­oner-of-War amps.

After his army ca­reer on­cluded in 1948, VG moved to Bea­cons­field but main­tained links with his old cavalry reg­i­ment, to which he felt closer than his in­fantry one.

When, in 1985, it cel­e­brated its 300th an­niver­sary he was fêted as one of its old­est sur­vivors and pre­sented to Prince Charles, the reg­i­ment’s Colonel-in-Chief.

At other mil­i­tary events he was pre­sented to the Queen Mother and to the Duke of Kent.

He recorded his me­moirs for the Na­tional Army Mu­seum be­fore he died in 1989, aged 97.

por­trait of Ma­jor Ver­non George Matthews – a well-known gure around Bea­cons­field be­fore his death and left, meet­ing er Majesty Queen El­iz­a­beth, the Queen Mother, dur­ing a visit o the county

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