July 18, 2024

‘Mr Coffeepot’

DON MATTHEWS –– –– ‘Sally Man’ 1924-2006

Last November (2006) a large number of 7RAR and other Viet Vets attended Don Matthews’ Funeral in Ballarat. As a tribute to his contribution to 7RAR and the Veteran Community generally, the following extract from his Order of Service has been included in our report:-

“He looked out for ways in which he could serve others”

THE PROMOTION TO GLORY of Don Matthews on Wednesday November 8, 2006, marked the concluding chapter in a diverse, interesting, useful, action-packed and inspirational life spanning 82 years.

“Promoted to Glory” is the term used by The Salvation Army for the passing of one of its soldiers or officers, and sums up for us, at this moment, Don’s transition from his days of earthly pilgrimage to his heavenly reward. Don’s life was largely characterised by his “soldier” involvement – a soldier of The Salvation Army, and as a member of Australia’s military forces.

Don was born in 1924 in Invermay, Tasmania, and enlisted in the Second World War as a 17 year old by putting his age up. As Private Edward Donald Matthews TX 13062 he served as a Bren gunner with the 2/6th Battalion in New Guinea and returned to Australia in 1945 and was
discharged from military service in 1946. In the following years he worked as a fireman on the railways.

As a married 28 year old, Don joined the “Intercessors” intake of Salvation Army cadets and was commissioned in January 1953 as a Lieutenant.

It was in the mid 60s during the disastrous bush-fires in the Dandenongs that Don made a name for himself as he worked tirelessly and skilfully as
a Salvos emergency services operator ministering to the fire-fighters at the fir front. his ability in being able to relate to men in dangerous situations obviously came to the attention of his superior officers.

It was in early 1967 whilst Don was the Captain at the Shepparton Corps that Commissioner Hubert Scotney, the territorial commander, visited to open the new citadel and quarters. The Commissioner told Don that he wanted to have a talk with him. After the Sunday morning meeting he told Don that they needed a man to go to Vietnam as a Chaplain of 7 RAR. Don asked what qualifications were required and he was promptly told “You have them!” When Don asked when he needed his response, the Commissioner told him, “Tonight!” Later that day Don discussed the posting with his family and they agreed that he should go.

The announcement was made in the evening meeting.

Captain Don 3590008, was quickly transferred to Puckapunyal and within a few weeks was in Vietnam, where he served with distinction between 1967 and 1969 as the 7 RAR Chaplain for their first tour. He was affectionately known as “Mr. Coffeepot” by the Australian troops. He would drive around the Army base at Nui Dat and even used a helicopter to take drinks out to the troops on patrol against the Viet Cong.

In 1988 Don moved to Buninyong where he became involved with the Ballarat sub-branch of the Vietnam Veterans Association as Chaplain
and also doing welfare work.

His life as a Salvationist continued through his soldiership at the Delacombe Corps where he was a member of the music sections and the Companion Club. Later, when he and Lois transferred their soldiership to the Ballarat Corps, Don was typical “Don Matthews”: always on the
look out for ways to serve others. Right up until illness dictated, he was doing duty as an Army chaplain in the Ballarat hospitals

Don played a significant role in the life, activities and service of the Ballarat branch of Legacy, serving as Welfare Officer, then as Vice-President and President. In 2005 Don was the first person to be awarded Life Membership of the Ballarat sub branch of the Vietnam Veteran’s Association. It was due to ill health that Don had to retire from the position of Chaplain in 2004.

Right up to the end the soldier spirit of Don was evident even although “confined to barracks”. His interest in others, his friendship, and his
joyous countenance will be missed but will remain as an inspirational memory for us all. We offer to Lois and every member of Don’s family
our expressions of sympathy and condolence”.

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