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Matthew 1561 # 022 Tunneller

Matthew 1561 b Crook 1884

Matthew was born in 1884 to Thomas & Margaret Gotts. He was a miner in Crook & Billy Row, in Durham.

In 1911 Matthew is shown as a miner married to Lydia Jackson.

The Soldiers’ Effects entry shows Matthew as Sapper 102869 in the 178th Company of the Royal Engineers. He died 8 Feb 1916 in action. He had over 48 presumably in pay, which was passed on to his widow Lydia. He would have been paid 6 shillings a day as a Tunneller, so this is probably the source of the 48. However, this is about 40 weeks pay, so it is interesting that he hasn’t sent it home.

His Soldier’s Will is also available from the Probate Office.

Everybody damns the Tunneller;

GHQ because he invariably has his job finished months before the rest of the Army are ready for the ‘Great Push’; Army troops because he invariably upsets all their preconceived notions as to the safety of trenches and dugouts; Divisional troops damn him because he is outside their sphere of influence; Brigade troops because he refuses to move when they do and because he knows by heart that part of the line to which they come as strangers; Brass hats because they dislike his underground habits; Regimental officers because he refuses to allow them to use his deep and snug dugouts; Subalterns because of his superior knowledge; Tommy because he is the direct cause of numerous extra fatigues and – alas that it should be so – because of his extra pay; and last and loudest, the Boche damn him because of his earnest and unceasing attempts at uplifting and converting them into surprised angels. It is also owing to his success in this noble work of the missionary that the Tunneller is highly respected by all branches of the forces.”


[E Synton, 1918]


This is on this superb website about Tunnelling: http://www.tunnellersmemorial.com/tunnelling-companies/





178th Tunnelling Company


On formation, moved to the Fricourt sector of the Somme to try to mine enemy positions ready for July 1916.


The battalion diary shows the different status of Tunnellers: every casualty is named. It shows that Matthew was digging in the tunnel with two others when the Germans exploded their own mine at Tambour Duclos, causing the tunnels to collapse, burying three of them. Two died (Gotts, Willty) and Luke was wounded, though the two that died were dug out and buried nearby at Becort-Becordel cemetery.


To actually work out where they died takes a bit of effort. The Battalion diary shows the place as MEAULTE, but this was the battalion headquarters and not where the tunnel was being dug. By reading back in the diary it identifies that a three mile telephone wire had been laid from the mines to HQ, and it seems that they were working on tunnels for mines at Fricourt around the Tambour Duclos area. This is less than half a km west of Fricourt and 5 km South East of Lochnagar crater.


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