Lieutenant Robert Matthews

Lieutenant Robert Matthews, 34, was a British citizen and militia lieutenant living in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.  He was traveling aboard Lusitania with his mistress, Annie.  Both Robert and Annie were lost in the Lusitania sinking.  Contrary to some allegations, Matthews was not the leader of a troop contingent aboard Lusitania, nor were he and Annie transfers from the requisitioned Cameronia.


Robert Matthews was born in England, the son of Thomas Matthews.  Robert was the eldest of seven brothers. The family had lived in Lancashire for several generations. Robert left England for Canada in 1904.  He brought over his brothers to join him in business, and they started a variety of businesses. Robert ran a labor bureau, and married a woman named Martha Ellen.  Robert and Martha had two daughters, and they lived at 541, 12th Street A, North, Lethbridge, Alberta. Matthews was given a commission as a militia lieutenant of the 60th Rifles of Canada headquartered at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1913.  His home life was unhappy and one year later Matthews left his family and his commission and spent that winter in a northern Manitoba farm with a woman who is known to history only as Annie. After unsuccessfully trying to secure a commission in the 46th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, Matthews decided to sail to England aboard Lusitania with Annie.  Matthew's mission may have been to enlist while in England, or to try to seek a new life in the home country with Annie.  Matthews is registered as being from Winnipeg, Manitoba, perhaps considering the city to be a "better address" than Moose Jaw (Bailey/Ryan, 112).  Annie was registered as his wife, which she was still not. Beginning with Colin Simpson, many researchers have made the mistake of naming Robert and Annie Matthews as transfers.  Simpson says that Matthews and the Palmer family were transfers from the Queen Margaret when the Queen Margaret was a cargo ship and not a passenger liner.  As the transfer from the Queen Margaret never happened, subsequent researchers have made the mistake of naming the Matthewses and the Palmers as Cameronia transfers, which was requisitioned the morning the Lusitania sailed. Aboard the Lusitania, Annie won the second place prize for the potato race on the afternoon of 4 May.  She was awarded a badge which she then gave to Robert. Both Robert and Annie died in the sinking of the Lusitania.  Robert's body was recovered by the Heron, and was body #1 recovered by Kinsale.  Inside his pocket was Annie's badge.  His body was then requested by the military and buried in Cork on 10 May. In Simpson, Matthews is erroneously listed as being from the 6th Winnipeg Rifles.  The Winnipeg Rifles were actually a part of the 90th Regiment.  Much has also been made for the case that Matthews was part of a contingent of Canadian troops transferred from the Cameronia, but a look at the Cameronia transfer list shows mostly couples and families, not organized troops.  Furthermore, Simpson makes the claim that the badge found on Robert’s body was a military badge, which it was not, as it was Annie’s prize badge for the potato race.

Links of Interest

Lieutenant Robert Matthews at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Contributors: Philip Fazzini Paul Latimer Judith Tavares Hildo Thiel Freda Wapple References: Bailey, Thomas A. and Paul B. Ryan.  The Lusitania Disaster:  An Episode in Modern Warfare and Diplomacy.  The Free Press, 1975. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002. Simpson, Colin.  The Lusitania.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1972

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