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Lionel Matthews

Lionel Matthews

Australian george cross recipient

Lionel Colin Matthews, GC, MC (15 August 1912 – 2 March 1944) was an Australian Army officer in World War II. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the highest award for heroism or courage not in the face of the enemy, that could be awarded to a member of the Australian armed forces at the time. Matthews was born in Adelaide, South Australia, and was schooled there before moving to Victoria. He trained as a signalman in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve before joining the Militia in April 1939. Commissioned as an officer in the Australian Corps of Signals, Matthews transferred to the 8th Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force after the outbreak of World War II.

Sent to Singapore with the rest of the 8th Division, Matthews served as the brigade signals officer of the 27th Brigade during the Malayan campaign and the Battle of Singapore, and at the surrender of Singapore he became a prisoner of war (POW). While in captivity he was awarded the Military Cross for displaying a high standard of courage, energy and ability while maintaining communications under fire in the earlier fighting. In July 1942, he was a member of a group of POWs sent to the Sandakan POW camp in British North Borneo. There, Matthews established an intelligence network, collecting information, weapons, medical supplies and radio parts, and made contact with organisations outside the camp, including Filipino guerrillas who assisted POWs to escape.

In July 1943, members of his organisation were betrayed, and Matthews and others were arrested, beaten, tortured and starved by their Japanese captors. Matthews refused to provide any information on his organisation or its members to the Kenpeitai, and was executed by firing squad at Kuching, Sarawak, in March 1944. After the war, he was posthumously awarded the George Cross in recognition of his gallant and distinguished services while a POW in Japanese hands.


August 15, 1912
Lionel Matthews was born in Stepney.


Further Resources


Matthews, David

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