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History

Brentford Remembers three more players that made the ultimate sacrifice

Historian Paul Briers shares the stories of Alfred William Mehew, Percy Charles Matthews and Thomas Pryce Hamer

11 November 2021

On Remembrance Day, we honour those men and women who gave their lives in conflicts around the world.

In the past 12 months, Paul Briers’ ongoing research into the Club’s former players, from 1889 to the 1920s, has led to the discovery of three additional Bees who are now due for recognition for their service and ultimate sacrifice during the First World War. In the matchday programme on Saturday, 6 November, when we faced Norwich City, the stories of Alfred William Mehew, Percy Charles Matthews and Thomas Pryce Hamer were told.

Hamer, Paul’s most recent discovery, is the 17th representative of Brentford Football Club known to have fallen during the First World War. This brings the total remembered over the two World Wars to 20, plus six guest players. Paul’s research continues - he is certain that other stories are yet to be told.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Thomas Hamer (1).jpg

Thomas Pryce Hamer, was born on 4 May 1883 in Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire, to Edward and Martha Hamer. The 1891 Census tells us the family were living at Short Bridge Street, Llanidloes. Thomas was the second of five sons, born during an eight-year period from 1882 to 1890.

By 1901, Thomas was an apprentice in a tannery. He was living at the home of the tannery owner, Abraham James, at Parkbach Cynnull Mawr, Aberystwyth. During his schooling, at Llanidloes County School, Thomas appeared in junior county football matches and then, while at Leeds University, he played for Kirkstall in the Leeds League.

He gained the honour of appearing in a Wales Amateur match versus England on 19 February 1910, but suffered a 6-0 defeat. He appeared in several more amateur trials but gained only the one cap. The census of 1911 shows Thomas living back at home with his father, who had remarried, at Summerfield Hall, Llanidloes, along with one brother and one sister.

On 20 November 1912, Brentford played a Southern Alliance match against Cardiff City in Cardiff (Southern Alliance fixtures are noted as First XI matches). Noted in the team line-ups were a ‘T. Bryce’ and a ‘Hamer’. The match ended in a 2-4 defeat to The Bluebirds. For a long time, it was thought that these were two players. We have come to discover that it was, in fact, one player: Thomas Pryce Hamer.

Thomas didn’t appear again until a year later, on 8 October 1913, again versus Cardiff City at Ninian Park, in a Southern Alliance fixture. Once again, the match ended in defeat by one goal to four. Hamer isn’t noted to play for Brentford again.

A newspaper report in the Daily News (London), dated 28 January 1914, then mentions that Llanelli FC had three Welsh Internationals in their line-up in a 10-1 victory over Mardy, including ‘Pryce Hamer of Brentford’. A link, finally, to the Hamer who appeared for Brentford in 1912 and 1913.

Thomas enlisted into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RWF), as Private #20575, around 28/29 December 1914 in Llandudno, Wales. We can be sure of this date thanks to near numbers whose records survive. He attained the rank of Corporal and was embodied into the 14th Battalion RWF. Sometime in early 1915, Thomas was commissioned into Officer Cadet School and trained to become an Officer in the British Army.

Norwich Cover Thomas Hamer.jpg

His time in the army was detailed in Saturday's programme. Lieutenant Thomas Pryce Hamer was shot by a bullet to his head from a German sniper on 7 July 1916. His body was never recovered. He is remembered on the memorial to the lost at Thiepval, France, Pier and Face 4 A.

His campaign medals, the 1915 Star, the War medal and Victory medal were all claimed by his family in 1922.

Alfred William Mehew was born in January 1881 in Thrapston, Northamptonshire, to William and Lois Mehew. He came to Brentford in August 1898 from Kettering St. Mary’s FC, signing amateur forms for the Southern League. It was said he was “a young, painstaking player, slight in stature and lightweight.”

Due to an injury sustained in a match (internal bruising was noted), Alfred missed most of the 1899/1900 season. Once fit, he was loaned to Monsted’s Athletic, Gray’s Athletic and Covent Garden to regain fitness. He reappeared at the beginning of the 1900/01 campaign, however, in October 1900, left Brentford to join Hounslow. In total, Alfred made 16 appearances for Brentford.

Alfred enlisted as a Private in the Northamptonshire Regiment on 23 November 1914. We can be confident of this date as his service number, 16496, appears in a batch of numbers issued in Kettering, Northamptonshire, on this day. Details of his time in the army appear in the matchday programme.

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Private Alfred William Mehew was killed in action on 9 May 1915. The concentration report, as to where his body was found, shows that he had just left the trenches from where an attack had started. This place is near to a farm, a few metres off Rue Delvas, north-east of Fromelles. He was exhumed and laid to rest at Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery, la Gorgue, France (plot XI, row D, grave 22).

Percy Charles Matthews was the eldest son of Henry and Emily Matthews. He was born on 19 February 1884 in Caddington, Bedfordshire, a village to the west of Luton.

In the Census of 1901 Percy’s occupation is noted as ‘stoker’ - this could be stoking the kilns in the local brick factory - and on 25 July 1902, Percy enlisted into the Royal Navy, serving for six years until 31 March 1908.

He is next found in the newspaper archives playing football for Uxbridge. Percy, a forward, was a regular starter and became captain in 1913. He also played cricket for Hayes in the summer. Percy appeared at an amateur trial for Brentford in 1913 and then in several Reserve fixtures in the Great Western Suburban League.

In the face of anger from some quarters, football continued during the 1914/15 season, but many clubs struggled for players as the call to arms was too great for many to ignore. Under these tough conditions, Brentford signed several local amateur players to fill the void. Percy Matthews was among them. However, Percy’s time at Brentford was short lived as he too decided to enlist. In total, he represented The Bees on three occasions (versus Barry, Mid-Rhondda and Stalybridge Celtic).

Percy Matthews (1).JPG

Percy joined the Essex Regiment, 1st Battalion, at the rank of Private #30462. The service number suggests an enlistment date during November 1915 (The Derby Scheme). He would’ve been placed on army reserve until he was mobilised, probably during May 1916.

The Essex Regiment landed in France – after serving at Gallipoli – and readied themselves for one of the first major offensives in August 1916: the Battle of the Somme. In October 1916, the 1st Battalion moved to a position to assault Gueudecourt on the Somme. On 12 October 1916, after the main assault, Private Percy Matthews was listed as ‘missing’. His death was confirmed later but his body was never found on the battlefield. He’s remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing, Pier and Face 10 D.

Brentford fans are reminded that an auction is underway for two sets of Brentford shirts with the poppy on. You can bid on our yellow away shirts worn against Burnley and our red and white shirts worn against Norwich City. Bids for those are raising hundreds for the Royal British Legion. Both auctions close on 20 November.

Place a bid here


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