Mathew GARR

GARR, Mathew

Service Number: 428
Enlisted: 6 October 1915, At Sea aboard HMAT Demostheues
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 47th Infantry Battalion
Born: Thursday Island, Queensland, 2 July 1889
Home Town: Bathurst Island, Northern Territory
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, Belgium, 29 September 1917, aged 28 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Darwin War Memorial, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient)
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World War 1 Service

6 Oct 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 428, At Sea aboard HMAT Demostheues
18 May 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 428, 41st Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '18' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Demosthenes embarkation_ship_number: A64 public_note: ''
18 May 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 428, 41st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Demosthenes, Sydney
7 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 428, 47th Infantry Battalion, Battle of Messines
20 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 428, 47th Infantry Battalion, Menin Road
29 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 428, 47th Infantry Battalion, Polygon Wood, --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 428 awm_unit: 47th Australian Infantry Battalion awm_rank: Private awm_died_date: 1917-09-29

Help us honour Mathew Garr's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by John Edwards

"Matthew was one five children born to Carlos and Mary Anne Garr (nee Bunyan). Carlos was a Filipino pearl-shell diver who travelled to Thursday Island as a 16 year old and then spent the rest of his life working between Thursday Island and Port Darwin either pearl-shell diving or fishing for trepang. Mathes was born at Thursday Island Queensland.  The family lived on ‘Carlos Beach’ (Dinah Beach) near Frances Bay. Mary Anne drowned near the Fort Hill Bath House in 1909 and was buried in Palmerston Cemetery. Mathew was one of four brothers who enlisted for the AIF in 1915 - Palencio (enlisted but did not serve) William (3051), was also killed in action and Glamor was wounded, awarded the Military Medal for bravery and later served in WW2. Before the war Matthew and his wife Fanny were residents at Bathurst Island Mission, Darwin, Northern Territory. Garr Street, Darwin is named in honour of William and Matthew who were killed in action." - Source unknown

"428 Private Matthew Garr, an indigenous serviceman from Thursday Island, Queensland. A labourer prior to enlistment, Pte Garr embarked with B Company, 41st Battalion, from Sydney, NSW, aboard HMAT Demosthenes (A64) on 18 May 1916. Later in the same year he transferred to the 47th Battalion. Pte Garr was killed in action in Belgium on 29 September 1917, aged 27. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium. Two of Pte Garr’s brothers also served: 3051 Pte William Gar [alternate spelling of Garr], 4th Pioneer Battalion, was killed in action on 30 November 1916. 4417 Pte Glamor Garr MM, 26th Battalion returned to Australia on 15 May 1919." - SOURCE (

"Born Martien Mateo Ga on 2 July 1889 on Thursday Island, to Carlos Ga, a Filipino immigrant, and Mary Ann Bunyan, a Welsh immigrant, Matthew Garr was the third of 14 children. He grew up at the Bathurst Mission on Thursday Island. At the outbreak of the First World War he was married with a daughter, and he and his brothers were all employed as labourers on Thursday Island. Garr enlisted in Darwin along with one of his younger brothers, Palencio, on 6 October 1915. Both were assigned to the 4th Darwin Contingent. Another brother, William, had already left Australia with reinforcements for the 9th Battalion, and a fourth, Glamor, joined the 26th Battalion in November. A farewell event was held at the Darwin Town Hall for the men of the 4th Darwin Contingent, including the Garr brothers and two other Filipino Australians. The contingent then sailed to Brisbane, where the men were transferred to the Enoggera Barracks.

After his initial training, Garr was posted to the newly raised 41st Battalion. His brother, however, could not adapt to the rigours of training and was discharged in May 1916 as unsuitable for service. He did not return to Darwin and died a year later in Queensland, aged 25. In May 1916 Garr embarked with the 41st Battalion aboard the transport ship Demosthenes, bound for England. During the voyage he was charged and fined for breaking out of his quarters while on active service. In England Garr was taken on strength with the 12th Training Battalion and underwent further training for operations on the Western Front. At the end of September he was sent to France and transferred to the 47th Battalion, joining it on the field in October.

In November Garr was hospitalised with a fever. Around this time Garr’s brother William, now serving with the 4th Pioneer Battalion, was killed by a shell while working on repairing tramlines at Decauville, France. Garr again fell ill and was transferred to England for recovery. It wasn’t until May 1917 that he re-joined his battalion. He took part in his first battle at Messines in June, and in the battle of Menin Road and Polygon Wood in September. At the end of the month, the 47th Battalion was in the front line in support trenches on Westhoek Ridge. Men of the battalion were engaged on working parties, burying cables and digging in water pipes in preparation for the next phase of the offensive. On 29 September Garr was killed by shell-fire. He was 28 years old.

Garr was buried near the block house known as Anzac House at Zonnebeke. His grave could not be located after the war and his name was added to the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. Of the three brothers sent on overseas service, only Glamor Garr returned to Darwin after the war. He had received the Military Medal for his bravery as a runner during an attack south of Villers-Bretonneux in July 1918. Matthew Garr’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with around 60,000 others from the First World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Matthew Garr, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world. Michael Kelly - Historian, Military History Section" - SOURCE (


Biography contributed by Jayna McCallum

Private Matthew Garr SERN 428

Matthew Garr was born on the 2nd of July 1889, his parents, Mary Ann and Carlos, both immigrants to Australia, settled on Thursday Island where Matthew grew up at Bathurst Mission with his siblings.

As well as his brothers, Garr worked as a labourer on the island. He was married and had a daughter before enlisting to join the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).

On the 6th of October 1915, Matthew and younger brother, Palencio Garr, enlisted in Darwin.  At 25 years of age, Matthew commissioned to the 4th Darwin Contingent, with his brother Palencio joining him.  William and Glamor Garr, brothers of Matthew, both left Australia with William joining the 9th Battalion and Glamor joining the 26th Battalion.

From Darwin, the Contingent of men travelled to Brisbane where they were transported to Enoggera Barracks for field training.  Matthew was dispatched to the 41st Battalion after his early training, though his brother Palencio failed to adjust to the training and was later discharged in May 1916 because he was incompatible for service. Palencio Garr was 25 years old when he died in Queensland, a year after being discharged.

While Matthew was a part of the 41st Battalion travelling to England from Sydney on A64 HMAT Demosthenes, he was charged and penalized for leaving his quarters while on active service. After arriving in London, he was still facing the consequences of leaving his quarters; however, Matthews’s acquaintances had given him the funds to spend four days disembarkation leave in London. 

In July 1916, the 41st Battalion disembarked at Plymouth and joined the 12th Training Battalion at Lark Hill camp on Salisbury Plain, where they underwent training.

Later in the year of 1916, Matthew volunteered to transfer to the 47th Infantry Battalion. A Lieutenant had sent a letter back to Darwin and an extract of the letter has Garr’s reasoning as to why he decided to join the 47th Battalion.

‘It was twice more better to be killed and push up daisies in France than to sit down in England with no money.’ - Said in the letter from Lieutenant L. S. Dummer’s recordings of Matthew Garr’s quote.

Through to October, the Battalion was on the Hindenburg line, however, the Battalion converted to Ypres Salient in Belgium, and by 1917, Matthew Garr fought at Messines and at Passchendaele.  The battalion was in a support position on Anzac Ridge, where Matthew was killed in action by shell fire on the 29th of September 1917, at the age of 28.

He was buried near Zonnebeke in Belgium, but the recordings of his gravestone were lost after the Great War.

In Belgium, Private Matthew Garr’s name is commemorated in the northern wing at panel 27 of the Menin Gate in the Province of West Flanders.  

A monument was established to honor soldiers who died on active service. The monument is located in Bicentennial Park in Darwin and holds the names of Matthew and William Garr.  The names of the two brothers are also listed on the honor roll at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, with Matthew’s at panel 174 and William’s at 143.

Matthew and William are also locally remembered by “Garr Street” in the suburb of Moil in Darwin.

Matthew Garr was given in honor, the British War medal and the Victory medal.  His brave spirit just like the many other ANZAC’s who sacrificed their lives will be respected and remembered forever.

Contributed by Jayna McCallum as part of the 2018 Northern Territory Chief Minister’s Anzac Spirit Study Tour.

References (2016). Details. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Mar. 2018].

Anon, (2018). [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Mar. 2018].

Garr, M. (2018). Mathew Garr. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Mar. 2018]. (2017). Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium - Surnames Gab-Goo. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Mar. 2018].

Memorial, T. (2018). Studio portrait of 428 Private (Pte) Matthew Garr, a serviceman from Thursday Island, Queensland. .... [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018]. (n.d.). Place Names Register. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Mar. 2018].

Rosenzweig, P. (2017). [online] Linked in. Available at: [Accessed 24 Mar. 2018].