Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Beatham, Robert Matthew (1894–1918)

by Roger C. Thompson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Robert Matthew Beatham (1894-1918), by unknown photographer

Robert Matthew Beatham (1894-1918), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, J03073

Robert Matthew Beatham (1894-1918), soldier, was born on 16 June at Glassonby, Cumberland, England, son of John Beatham, papermaker's foreman, and his wife Elizabeth, née Allison. While still in his teens he migrated with his brother Walter to Australia and was working at Geelong, Victoria, as a labourer when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 8 January 1915.

Beatham embarked for Egypt in April and was returned to Australia on medical grounds in July. He re-embarked in September with reinforcements for the 8th Battalion and six months later moved on to France where he was twice wounded in action—at Pozières in August 1916 and Passchendaele in October 1917. When the great Allied offensive was launched on 8 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 9 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 11 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 at Heath cemetery, Harbonnières. His award of the Victoria Cross was posthumous. The citation praised his 'most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice' which had 'inspired all ranks in a wonderful manner'.

Select Bibliography

  • K. R. Cramp, Australian Winners of the Victoria Cross: A Record of the Deeds that Won the Decoration During the Great War, 1914-1919 (Syd, 1919)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • London Gazette, 14 Dec 1918.

Citation details

Roger C. Thompson, 'Beatham, Robert Matthew (1894–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 October 2014.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Robert Matthew Beatham (1894-1918), by unknown photographer

Robert Matthew Beatham (1894-1918), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, J03073

Life Summary [details]


16 June 1894
Glassonby, Cumberland, England


9 August 1918
Lihons, France

Cultural Heritage