Matthew Corby was born in 1881, the second son of five children of Matthew Corby, a commercial traveller and engineer, and his wife Jane. The family was then living at 94 Oxborne Road, Levenshulme in Manchester.
Details of his early education are not known. He matriculated as a probationary Arts student at Durham University’s University College in Michaelmas term 1900 on 23 October and took and passed his admission exams in the following January. It took him several attempts to pass his first year Arts exams, which he finally achieved in January 1903. He played for his college’s cricket team on a couple of occasions, but scored only 0 and 1. He had by Easter 1902 completed his two years’ residence requirement and thereafter does not appear in the registers of attendees at chapel and lectures so he may well actually not have been living in Durham, attending only for his exams. He again had several goes at his finals, passing his Part I in December 1903 and Part II in June 1904, and was awarded his BA on 21 June that year.
He went on to a career as a solicitor, joining the partnership Herd, Nutt, Baker & Corby which was based in the Prudential Building on Commercial Street in Birmingham. He was clerk to the Sutton Coldfield magistrates, and also served as a census solicitor in 1911. His obituary in the Birmingham Post, published on 1 November 1917, also notes his having served as the honorary secretary of the Birmingham and Edgbaston Debating Society. It also reported that for a time Corby seriously considered a career in the Church of England, and attended a theological college, though it is not known which one. He continued afterwards to work with young people through the church.
Matthew Corby joined the forces in March 1916 and took part in the Battle of the Somme, serving with the 2nd and then the 4th Battalion Worcester Regiment. He was wounded and invalided home, returning to France in May 1917. He was again wounded while fighting in the Battle of Passchendaele, but died of his wounds at Poperinge on 13 October 1917. His battalion’s war diary (WO 95/2309/2) records that the unit had been in Sarawak Camp since 10 October, and the last action noted before this period of relief was on 9 October when the battalion took part in the Battle of Poelcappelle. The diary notes that they took three of their objectives that day, capturing six officers, 200 other ranks, and five machine guns, for the loss of 2 officers and 20 other ranks killed, 5 officers and 107 other ranks wounded, and 40 other ranks missing. Conditions on the battlefield are described as very wet and muddy, the British artillery’s creeping barrages were effective, but both sides suffered heavy losses.
Lance Corporal Corby is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery. His sacrifice is commemorated in Durham University’s Roll of Service (1920) , Birmingham’s Roll of Honour, and on a war memorial plaque first erected in St Luke’s Church and then moved to St Matthias’ Church, Plymouth, where his mother lived prior to her death in 1935, in the vicarage home of the Reverend James Roberton and his wife, Norah Louise, Matthew’s eldest sister.