SOME weeks ago, I carried an appeal for information about the family of a soldier who died in an accident during the First World War.

It came from Peter Hutchison, of the Renfrewshire Family History Association, who had been contacted by the Royal British Legion in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.

The organisation wished to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Glasgow-born Gunner Matthew J Biggs, Royal Engineers, who died in December 1915 and is buried in St Ives.

It was hoped some of his descendants could be advised of the event.

Peter became involved as it was known Matthew married a Paisley girl and the couple lived in the town.

He found out that Matthew’s son William George Biggs died in Greenock in 1992 at the age of 83.

My story asked if any reader knew of William Biggs or his family. Unusually, given that William died here less than 25 years ago, the appeal did not draw any response.

Subsequent to my appeal, Peter’s research put him in contact with William’s daughter.

She explained that her father had previously lived in Glasgow but deteriorating health meant he required to enter a care home.

Also a resident of Glasgow, his daughter arranged for William to go into a Greenock home, which she knew to be highly regarded, as she was a member of the medical staff at Inverclyde Royal Hospital and this would enable her to visit him on a regular basis.

William’s passing in 1992 would have been a sadness for the home’s staff and residents who may have got to know him. Other than that, he did not have traditional links with Greenock.

I have also since learned the circumstances of the death of William’s father’s, Gunner Matthew J Biggs. It is all the more tragic that someone who was prepared to die in battle for his country should perish the way he did.

My original story told that in May 1915 Matthew enlisted in the 1/1st Renfrewshire Field Company, Royal Engineers. He trained in Paisley and Ayr prior to being sent to St Ives, from where it was thought he would be sent to the Western Front.

The blackout tends to be associated with the Second World War but it was also imposed in certain areas on the east coast of England, including St Ives, during the Great War.

A newspaper report stated that nearly all the lights of St Ives had been extinguished by order of the authorities when Matthew went out to meet a friend around 6.45pm on Sunday 5 December 1915. In darkness and during heavy rain Matthew failed to turn a corner on a path and fell into the River Great Ouse, which was in flood.

Cries were heard and the alarm was raised but Matthew’s body was not found until 3.30pm the following day.

He had fallen into the river fully attired, including a heavy military coat, and would have had no chance of saving himself.

It is fitting that his passing will be commemorated later this year and thanks to Peter Hutchison, of the Renfrewshire Family History Association, his grand daughter, great grandson and great great grandson have been traced.