Private Matthew Willison, 17th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery died of wounds on 4th October 1918, aged 28. Born in Birmingham in 1890, he was the youngest of the three sons of parents James (a labourer) and Clarissa (née Breese) who had married at St Andrew’s Church, Bordesley in 1882. It seems that James had previously been married to Clarissa’s sister, Jane Fawn Breese, who died in 1881, aged 29. James and Jane had one son, Arthur Ernest (born 1876).
Despite several attempts to change the legislation, marrying the sister of a deceased wife was prohibited under the Marriage Act 1835. It wasn’t until 1907, when the Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Act was passed by Parliament, that it became lawful. Similar legislation enabling widows to marry the brother of their deceased husband wasn’t passed until 1921.