This wonderfully sharp period postcard caught my eye as did the simple inscription on its back. At one time “Uncle Mat” may have graced a family photo album but unfortunately those days have long passed. As luck would have it I stumbled upon it recently and have since recruited Uncle Mat to join my platoon of First World War soldiers whose stories have yet to be told.
My first job was to determine who Uncle Mat really was. There weren’t a lot of clues but the exceptionally fine photograph left no doubt that he was a soldier of the 148th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. The 148th began recruiting in Montreal in late 1915 and sailed to England in September 1916. By early 1917 it had been absorbed into a reserve battalion and its soldiers sent to various front-line battalions who were badly in need of reinforcements.
The Library and Archives website confirmed that the 148th Battalion were assigned a block of service / regimental numbers ranging from 841001 to 844000. A search of the Soldiers of the First World War – CEF database yielded seven soldiers who attested for the 148th and whose first name began with “Mat”. Fortunately the quality of the photograph would help me narrow down this list of candidates:
- One of the soldiers was aged 45 and was easy to eliminate as Uncle Mat is clearly a much younger man.
- Three soldiers were described on their attestation papers as having “Ruddy” complexions while the other three were “Fresh” or “Fair”. I wouldn’t describe Uncle Mat’s complexion as “ruddy”.
- Determining eye colour in a black & white photo is tricky. Fortunately my high-res scan (not the one pictured above) suggests that Uncle Mat had blue eyes, thus eliminating one brown-eyed soldier.
The photograph could yield no further clues and so I was left with two candidates for Uncle Mat: 19-year old Matt Liddell and 20-year old Matthew Lynn. While “Matt” Lindell looked promising I couldn’t rely solely on an abbreviated given name. It was time to put all those years of family history research to good use!
Tomorrow I’ll put the case forward for Matthew Lynn from Stevenston in Ayrshire, Scotland.
[Update: read the latest on this mystery]