Memorial to 1815 hero

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HERO Blidworth soldier Matthew Clay has finally been honoured in the village of his birth - 196 years after he fought with distinction at the Battle of Waterloo.

A steel lectern has been placed on a grass bank next to the village’s war memorial to tell future generations all about Sgt Maj Clay and his part in Napoleon’s downfall.

Matthew was a 19-year-old private with the Scots Guards when he took part in the heroic defence of Hougoumont Farm against an onslaught by French forces during the battle on 18th June 1815.

The famous rearguard action saved the flank of the Duke of Wellington’s troops and helped ensure the final defeat of the French emperor - placing Matthew at the centre of one of the key moments in European history.

But until now there has been no permanent memorial to Matthew in Blidworth, where he was born in 1796 and christened at St Mary’s Church.

Much of what we know about Matthew has been discovered by his great, great, great, great niece, Christine Dabbs, who still lives in Blidworth.

After finding out about her distant relative while researching her family tree, grandmother Christine was determined to ‘bring him home’, and with the help of Blidworth Parish Council arranged for the memorial to be unveiled on Remembrance Sunday.

“It was a brilliant day and it is so nice to have something honouring Matthew in the village,” she said.

Hundreds of residents lined Main Street to see four members of the Waterloo 1815 Coldstream Guards re-enactment group, dressed in the same red uniform Matthew would have worn, march to the memorial.

It was unveiled by L/Sgt Kevin Gorman, of the Scots Guards Archives, and rifle shots were fired into the air to honour Matthew.

The lectern features the emblem of the Scots Guards and information about Matthew’s life. It is clearly visible from the road and Christine says it has already become a talking point.

“Often I go past and see people standing there reading it or slowing down in their cars to look,” she said.

“On Remembrance Day people were gobsmacked because they never knew about Matthew.

“It makes me feel very proud to know a relative of mine and someone from Blidworth is so historically important. I hope other people in the village will feel the same way.”

He first enlisted with the Nottinghamshire Militia in 1813 but joined the regular Army soon after and was in the Scots Guards by the time of the Waterloo campaign.

Matthew’s account of Waterloo is among the most vivid to have survived and he continued to wear a laurel leaf with his medal from the battle until his death at the age of 77.