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Those Who Came After The Original 500

L/Cpl Matthew Brazil  Regt # 1368

L/Cpl Matthew Brazil (fourth from the left)and Comrades in Arms

Newfoundland Secretary of War, J.R. Bennet presenting
Medals of Bravery to L/Cpl Matthew Brazil and fellow soldiers

Matthew Brazil was The youngest son born to Thomas and Mary Brazil (nee Peddle) on August 25, 1894 in the community of Spaniards Bay, Newfoundland.  Matt had been working on Bell Island as a miner when the First World War broke out in Europe, in 1914. On March 25, 1915 this single twenty year old lad had decided to enlist into the ranks of the Newfoundland Regiment.  He was enlisted with Regimental Number 1368.  Upon registering Matt listed his oldest brother, Thomas, as his beneficiary.  He was assigned to the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on August 20, 1915.  Then on March 14, 1916 and again, on December 5, 1917 Matt was assigned to the British Expeditionary Force.   On March 16, 1918 he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal; Acting Corporal on October 16, 1918; and he was confirmed Corporal on January 15, 1919.

For his bravery at Armentieres on April 13, 1918 he was given the Military Medal; for his devotion to duty and bravery at Ledgehem, on October 14, 1918.  He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Croix de Guerre (France's highest honors).

However, his Croix de Guerre was never held by him!  It was not until during a brief ceremony at the Sir Humphrey Gilbert Building on October 6, 1983 that my uncle, Michael, received the Croix de Guerre on behalf of his "Dadda" (a name which the children called their father), posthumously. Matthew had died over quarter-of-a-century earlier!

From conversations with my uncle Mike Brazil I had learned that during his war encounters,  my grandfather had seen action in a number of battles and he had received several injuries. At Gallipoli he suffered frostbite. At Beaumont Hamel he was wounded in the left leg and in his face, being hospitalized in Carrieres, Etaples and the Rouen Base Camp.  By July 12, 1916 Matthew was returned to his battalion.  Later that same year, on November 11th. he was severely scalded on the right hand and he received a bullet wound to his right wrist during a bombing attack.  After this he was transferred to England and hospitalized.  At Boulogne he was severely gassed on numerous occasions.  However despite these adversities Matt remained in action until the end of the war.  He returned to Newfoundland until February 7, 1919, and on March 31, 1919, four years and six days after he enlisted, he was discharged from duty.

At Armentieres Lance Corporal Brazil received the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery under heavy machine gun fire in full view of the enemy. At the time he was in charge of a Lewis gun team and when his gun was running short of ammunition, Matthew collected what ammunition he could from the dead and wounded to refill his magazines. At Ledgehem he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal because during the attack from Ledgehem towards the Lys on October 14, 1918 all of his platoon except for himself and one other man had become casualties.

They attached themselves to the platoon on the left.  When the attack was temporarily held up by four field guns firing at very close range, this N.C.O. (Matthew Brazil) went forward with the platoon which was attempting to outflank the guns. When the platoon could advance no farther on account of fire from the guns and machine guns, L/Cpl. Brazil and another man voluntarily doubled forward with a Lewis gun by short rushes under intense fire from one gun and four machine guns, until they reached the right flank.  On arriving there, while the other man opened fire with his Lewis gun, Matthew opened fire with his rifle.  Under this covering fire the platoon was to advance and finally capture the four field guns.  It was entirely due to Lance Corporal Brazil's dash and bravery that the platoon was able to advance, capture the hostile guns and enable the advance to press forward.

Matt was the Section commander at Ledgehem when he won the DCM.   Accounts show that Brazil played a crucial part in the action which saw Thomas Ricketts being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Corporal Matthew Brazil died in February 1958 at aged  63 years.  He was survived by his wife Agnes (nee Delaney) and nine children: Cecilia, Margaret (Melvin Drover), Mary Jo (William Pennell), Clare (Harry Gregory), Gerald, Matthew (Marina Dwyer), Joan (William Ryan), Michael and Eileen.  He was laid to rest at St. Ann's R.C. Cemetery in Spaniards Bay.

Today the Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 9, Spaniards Bay, is named in honour of Corporal Matthew Brazil, M.M., D.C.M., Croix de Guerre (French).

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