Harold George Matcham

Date of birth:                  1894Poppies
Place of birth:                 Southampton
Rank:                                  Boots
Vessel:                                HMHS Glenart Castle
Service:                             Mercantile Marine
Died:                                   26th February 1918 aged 23 years
Death Location:            At Sea


Life before the War
Harold was the third of 12 children born to parents Alfred and Alice, nee Bulley.  Alfred was born in Torquay, Devon in 1867 and died in 1939 Southampton.  Alice was born in 1869 in Southampton, dying in 1938.  They were married on 2nd March 1890 in Southampton.

Harold’s siblings – 6 sisters and 5 brothes – were:

Louisa Alice   b.11th April 1892 and d.1975.
Married Gilbert Prowting 1918.  He died in 1960 and left £7083 0s 11d as per his Probate.

Alfred Walter   b.1893 and d.1951

Cecil Arthur   b.1896 and d.10th April 1918 (war casualty)

Lilian Esther   b.1897

Frank James   b.1899 and d.1904

Leonard   b.1900 and d.28th March 1964.  Left £812 as recorded in his Probate.

Constance Lottie   b.1901

Hilda Florence   b.1903

Edith Rose B   b.1906

Doris Ethel   b.1908 and d.1912

Clifford Roy   b.1910 and d.1991

The 1901 census shows Alfred having his own business as a Cabinet Maker.  The family are living at 4, Upper Liverpool Street, St. Mary’s Parish, Southampton.

By 1911 the family had moved to 11 Waverley Road, Freemantle.  Alfred still had his own Cabinet Making business.  Alfred junior was employed as a Gardener/Nurseyman, Harold worked as an Errand Boy and Cecil was employed by a Printer Company as a Machine Boy.

Brother Cecil’s War Service
“Matcham, Pte. Cecil Arthur, 240392. 2nd/5th Bn. Hampshire Regt. 13th Nov., 1917. Age 21. Son of Alfred and Alice Matcham, of 11, Waverley Rd., Freemantle, Southampton”

Brother Leonard’s Service Record
Leonard enlisted on 2nd August 1918 joining the Dorsetshire Regiment, service number 44376 as a Private.  Leonard confirmed his address as 11, Waverley Road, Freemantle, Southampton.  His occupation was Engine Mechanic Apprentice.  He gave his father Alfred as next of kin. He was demobilised on 25th October 1919.

His sister’s National Roll of the Great War (unsure if this is Louisa or Lilian)
“Matcham, L. (Miss), Special War Worker)
During the war this lady was engaged on work of great National importance at the Hayes Munition Factory, where she was employed in filling shells.  Later she did good work as a cable tester at Messrs. Perrilles, where her services were highly valued by the firm.
11, Waverley Road, Freemantle, Southampton”

tower hill memorialx2

Tower Hill Memorial

Harold’s War Service
 Harold is Remembered with Honour on the Tower Hill Memorial.

“Matcham, Boots Harold George. H.M.H.S. “Glenart Castle” (Southampton). Drowned, as a result of an attack by an enemy submarine, 26th Feb., 1918. Age 23. Son of Alfred and Alice Matcham, of 11, Waverley Rd., Freemantle, Southampton”


Historical Information – H.M.H.S. “Glenart Castle”
On 26 February 1918 Glenart Castle was returning to the UK.  Fishermen in the English Channel saw her clearly lit up as a hospital ship. John Hill, a fisherman on Swansea Castle, remembered “I saw the Hospital Ship with green lights all around her – around the saloon. She had her red side lights showing and mast-head light, and also another red light which I suppose was the Red Cross light.” At 04:00 Glenart Castle was hit by a torpedo in the No. 3 hold.  The blast destroyed most of the lifeboats while the subsequent pitch of the vessel hindered attempts to launch the remaining boats.  In the eight minutes the ship took to sink only seven lifeboats were launched. Rough seas and inexperienced rowers swamped most of the boats.

Only a few survivors were reported. 162 people were killed including the Captain, Bernard Burt, eight nurses, seven Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) medical officers and 47 medical orderlies. The matron of Glenart Castle — Miss Kate Beaufoy — was a veteran of the South African War. Her family kept her diary and her writings describe life on the ship.

Evidence was found suggesting that the submarine may have shot at initial survivors of the sinking in an effort to cover up the sinking of the ship. The body of a junior officer was recovered from the water close to the position of the sinking.  It was marked with two gunshot wounds, one in the neck and the other in the thigh.  The body also had a life vest indicating he was shot while in the water.


Researcher: Becky Lonergan
Published: May 2014
Updated: Insert dates here

If you have any additional information about the person named above please complete the Comments section below.

2 responses to “Harold George Matcham

  1. I am John Nelson , grandson of Constance , Harold’s sister . I enjoyed reading this article and if anyone is researching this family , I have lots of genealogical information on both the Matchem’s and the Bulley’s . I would also be grateful if anyone could be of help in filling in gaps in my own research . Thanks for this article .

    • Lynne Switzer

      Hi we are The Switzers, Hilda Florence Matcham was my husbands Grandmother, her Daughter Jill Josephine was my husbands Mother, maiden name Rouse. If we can offer you any information ( we are limited to what we know) we would be glad to help. Lynne

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