Private Ernest Frederick William Mason
74262 28th Bn., Canadian Expeditionary Force who died 24 April 1917
Ernest Frederick William Mason was born in Leicester in 1879, the son of John Arthur and Mary Ann (nee Knight) Mason. He had four brothers and three sisters. Ernest’s mother died in 1898 and John married Mary Ann (Polly) Neale on 18 January 1899. A second family of nine half brothers and sisters followed. In 1901 Ernest, a shoe riveter, was living with his brother Arthur’s family in Curzon Street, Leicester.
Ernest married Florence Kirk in Oadby on 5 August 1901, but sometime after 1908 he went to Canada leaving Florence and four children behind in Oadby. His brothers Archie and Arthur had previously worked in Canada for a while and returned to Oadby. At the time large numbers of British men emigrated to Canada, with their families following once the men were settled. Several men from Oadby left at about this time including Oscar Mellowes, Ted Potterton, Christopher Partridge and men of the Ludlum and Thornton families. All of them worked in the boot and shoe factories in Oadby, so it can be assumed that there was probably a link with a factory in Canada recruiting men with experience in the footwear industry. At about the same time the Oadby Methodist Chapel was also funding some passages to Canada. Research has not revealed the reason for Ernest’s migration but family members believe he left to escape the law with a vague tale about missing leather
Ernest enlisted in the 28th (Northwest) Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 3 March 1915, in Winnipeg. He gave his date of birth as 21 June 1883 but all official British documentation shows 1879. Although not verifiable, Ernest possibly wished to appear younger in order to be accepted for overseas service.
Cap badge of 28th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force
On 29 May 1915 the 28th Battalion embarked for Plymouth on the S.S Northland. Several months of training took place at Otterpool, Kent and in September they left for France as part of the 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. The battalion saw action at the Battle of Mont Sorrel (June 1916) and at Flers-Courcelette, Thiepval and Ancre Heights on the Somme. From 9 April 1917 the Battalion was involved in the Battle of Arras.
Ernest was wounded in early 1917 and admitted to hospital in the Le Havre area. In mid-April he wrote to his family to say he would be home on sick leave. On 22 April, however, he was returning to the Canadian Depot in Le Havre when he was knocked down by a vehicle and badly injured. A family story suggests that Ernest had been deafened by an artillery barrage and had not heard the vehicle’s approach. Ernest was taken to the No.7 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Harfleur but died two days later. His wife Florence received his letter on the same day that she was notified of his death.
Details of the accident in which Ernest was killed.
Private Ernest Mason is Buried with Honour at St. Marie Cemetery, Graville-St.Honorine, near Le Havre, France.
He is also honoured on the Oadby War Memorial. Local documents and the Oadby war memorial show Ernest’s rank as Lance Corporal, but official army records list him as Private.
St. Marie Cemetery, Graville-St.Honorine, near Le Havre, France.
Ernest’s obituary in the Leicester Illustrated Chronicle 9 June 1917
In June 1917 a vote of sympathy was expressed at the Council meeting.
Two of Ernest’s brothers also moved to Canada and fought in the war.
Sydney Carl (b.1891) enlisted in the 8rd CEF in Toronto in August 1915. After the war Sydney returned to his wife Maud (nee Botterill) in Oadby.
Archie Leonard (b.1884) enlisted in the Winnipeg Light Infantry in December 1915. He remained in Canada after the war with his daughter Lillian and wife Annie (nee Thornton) also from Oadby but whom he had married in 1906 in Manitoba, Canada. Annie’s parents were also living in Canada.
We are grateful to the Mason family for their assistance in this research.