This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979
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 alone 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. Later the same day 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'.
Roger C. Thompson, 'Beatham, Robert Matthew (1894–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/beatham-robert-matthew-5170/text8685, accessed 9 December 2013.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979