News clip reveals more on WWI soldier

02:01, Aug 18 2014

Despite not having a headstone for 80 years, it's heartening to know that Private Clement Skelly received a soldier's tribute and funeral.

The Waikato Times last month covered efforts to recognise the WWI veteran's grave and the search for details of his family, eight decades after he was buried in a pauper's grave with no family present after dying of exposure on a Matamata roadside with only his war medals to his name.

The Defence Force and RSA recently unveiled a headstone for Skelly.

Since then his great-great-nephew has come forward to fill in some family details.

The Matamata Historical Society has dug out a newspaper story that was originally published in the Matamata Record.

The clipping, which has a date of July 16, 1934, was published 10 days after Skelly died on July 6.


A Mr T Whitworth was apparently travelling to work in Waharoa when he came across a man lying curled up under a hedge near the home of a Mr Buckley.

On closer inspection, Whitworth found the man was unconscious, so he took him to the Waharoa post office and rang the police.

Constable Holt, along with Dr Horsley, arrived on the scene but the man's "death ensued a few seconds after their arrival".

The clipping said inquiries and papers found on the man revealed he was Charles Joseph Skelly and that he was known to members of the Matamata RSA, some of who had served with him in France.

It went on to detail the injuries Skelly suffered while serving overseas, including the loss of four fingers on his left hand and three on the right.

Skelly was also in receipt of a pension.

Skelly, who when found was poorly clad, had received assistance from the Matamata RSA on several occasions and was to have called back for a pair of boots on the Thursday, but for some reason he did not do so.

The next day, Friday, he was found under the hedge.

Skelly's funeral took place on the Saturday at 2pm and Father Silk performed the last rites, the clipping said.

The Matamata branch of the RSA saw to it that Skelly received a soldier's tribute. "A Union Jack draped the coffin, while several members of the branch attended and paid their last respects to one who had fought with them."

Waikato Times