b. 16/06/1894 Glassonby, Cumberland. d. 09/08/1918 Rosieres, France.
Robert Matthew Beatham (1894-1918) was born on 16th June 1894 at Glassonby, Cumberland, England, son of John Beatham, papermaker’s foreman, and his wife Elizabeth, née Allison. He attended Maughanby School, Glassonby, Cumberland. While still in his teens he migrated with his brother Walter to Australia and was aged 20 upon his arrival.
Beatham enlisted as a Private in the 8th Battalion (Victoria), Australian Imperial Force on 8th January 1915. He embarked on HMAT Hororata from Melbourne on 17th April 1915 for Suez but returned to Australia in August 1915 due to illness (venereal disease). After recuperating he re-enlisted and sailed again seeing one month of active service at Gallipoli before the general evacuation to Alexandria. From there he was sent to France, arriving in Marseilles on 31st March 1916. He was wounded in action for the first time on 18th August 1916, during the early stages of the Battle of the Somme, suffering a gunshot wound to the back.
After recuperation he rejoined his unit on 30 September 1917. He was wounded on the second occasion on 4th October 1917 at Broodseinde during the Battle of Passchendaele and was evacuated to England for treatment and recovery. During his sojourn in England he was found guilty of being absent without leave over the new year of 1918 and was given field punishment and a forfeit of pay.
He rejoined his unit on the Western Front in February 1918. When the great Allied offensive was launched on 8th August 1918, his unit was among those ordered to advance from Harbonnières and capture the high ground of Lihons north of Rosières. On approaching this German strong point on 9th August the 8th Battalion, its supporting tanks knocked out by heavy artillery fire, was halted by a line of machine-guns. Private Beatham’s company worked its way forward to enfilade the enemy position and, assisted by Lance Corporal W. G. Nottingham, he rushed forward and bombed the crews of four guns, killing ten men and capturing ten others. This action enabled the battalion to renew its advance. On 11th August when nearing its objective on the southern slope of Lihons it was again halted by German reinforcements. Beatham, though wounded, rushed another machine-gun and bombed and silenced it, but was riddled with bullets.
He was buried in Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, France. His medal group is not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA (LOAN FOR 3 YEARS).
BURIAL PLACE: HEATH CEMETERY, HARBONNIERES, FRANCE.
PLOT VII, ROW J, GRAVE 13
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Thomas Stewart – VC Medal when displayed at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Dan Thompson – Image of the VC Stone in Glassonby, Cumberland.
Samuel – Image of the reverse of the Beatham VC Medal.