Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 5, 1897
Place of BirthLiverpool, Lancashire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJames Wall (uncle), Newtown, North Wales
Trade / CallingClerk
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number540351
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion20th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at Enlistmentc/o Dr. Albert Henry Edmison and Eva Edmison, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 30, 1915
Age at Enlistment18
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 18, 1976
Age at Death79

Matthews, Charles Gordon

Lieutenant Charles Gordon Matthews enlisted in August 1915 and served for almost two and a half years in Canada, Great Britain and France. He enlisted again during the Second World War and was commissioned as a Major in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. He was decorated with the Order of the British Empire in 1946.

Charles Gordon, usually known as Gordon, was born on 5 February 1897 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. His parents, Charles Pryce Matthews and Eliza Wall, were both born in Montgomeryshire, Wales. They were married in 1895 in the registration district of Newtown in Montgomeryshire. They were living in Liverpool by the time Gordon was born in 1897 and they were still there when the 1901 census was taken. Gordon was likely their only child. Charles worked as a bricklayer and builder’s foreman and he died in Finchampstead, Berkshire on 15 April 1907, at age 51.

Gordon and his mother immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1912, arriving in June on the Empress of Britain, their destination Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sadly, Gordon’s mother died just two years later, on 25 May 1914, and she’s buried at St. James Cemetery in Winnipeg. Gordon was 17 years old at the time. His mother passed away at the home of Mrs. Martha Jane Hample (née Richards). Mrs. Hample was an active philanthropist in Winnipeg and she helped found the Knowles Home for Boys. She was one of the first women elected to the Winnipeg School Board and as a member of the Political Equality League she lobbied for female suffrage. She had a brother and two sisters living in Kenora, Ontario, including Mrs. Evalina Edmison, the wife of Dr. Albert Henry Edmison.

Around the time he enlisted Gordon was living in Kenora and his address was c/o Dr. Albert Henry Edmison. He referred to Evalina Edmison as his aunt. He enlisted in Winnipeg on 30 August 1915, signing up with the 7th Cyclists Platoon, Military District No. 10 and he was assigned to the Divisional Cyclist Depot. His occupation was clerk and next of kin was his uncle James Wall in Newtown, North Wales. Gordon was sent to Niagara Camp in Ontario for training and transferred to Military District No. 2. On 5 February 1916 he was discharged from service in order to get a commission in the Active Militia.

Gordon was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 5 April 1916 in Toronto. He had been serving in the 109th Regiment of the Active Militia and he was transferred to the 169th Overseas Battalion. The 169th was based in Toronto and the recruits trained at Niagara Camp that summer. On 2 June 1916 Gordon and 44 other soldiers were injured when they were struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm. One other soldier, Private William Creser of Toronto, was killed. Gordon recovered and embarked for the UK with his battalion in mid-October, arriving there near the end of the month.

In January 1917 Gordon was transferred to the 5th Reserve Battalion and that same month he took a sniper’s course. Two months later he was drafted to a front line unit, the 20th Battalion, and sent to France. He joined them in the field on 14 April 1917, just as the Battle of Vimy Ridge was ending. After the capture of the ridge the Canadians stayed in the area holding the new front line and they took part in operations at Arleux and Fresnoy. Gordon was wounded near Fresnoy on 10 May, suffering a shell or gunshot wound to his left arm. He was taken to No. 18 Casualty Clearing Station then moved to No. 5 British Red Cross Hospital at Wimereux. From there he was evacuated to England on the hospital ship St. Denis and admitted to the 4th London General Hospital at Denmark Hill.

Gordon recovered in the hospital from 16 May until 22 June when he was discharged to duty with the 1st Central Ontario Regiment Depot. In July he suffered sunstroke and he spent three weeks in the Reading War Hospital. During that time his eyesight deteriorated, possibly a lingering effect from being injured by lightning. On 14 October he was admitted to the Westcliffe Eye and Ear Hospital and diagnosed with functional amblyopia as well as neurosis due to his lightning injury. A medical report recommended that he have two months leave and return to Canada for home service. Gordon embarked for Canada in November 1917 on the SS Saxonia, arriving in Halifax at the end of the month. He was discharged in Toronto on 28 January 1918, due to being medically unfit for further war service.

According to his obituary, Gordon spent most of the 1920s and 30s in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. He was married in Strome, Alberta in 1925 to Mary Elizabeth Robertson. Gordon and Mary had two sons, Richard and Michael, both apparently born in the north. The family moved to British Columbia when the Second World War started. Gordon became a Major in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps and Officer Commanding of the Pacific Command Water Transport Company. The unit was based in Vancouver and operated about 70 armed vessels that transported freight and supplies on the Pacific coast. Gordon was decorated with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in January 1946.

After the war Gordon lived in Vancouver for about twenty years and worked in real estate. He and his wife retired to Ganges on Salt Spring Island around 1968. He was very involved in the community there, serving as president of the Gulf Islands Community Arts Council, secretary-treasurer of the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, secretary-treasurer of the Salt Spring Island Rotary Club and secretary of the Chamber of Commerce.

Gordon passed away at Lady Minto Hospital in Ganges on 18 April 1976, at age 79. Cremation followed and a memorial service was held on 21 April. He was survived by his wife, his two sons and six grandchildren.

By Becky Johnson

Photo at the top is the Order of the British Empire

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