In early November 1916, a small memorial service was held in the Baptist church at Falkland Ridge, Nova Scotia to celebrate the life of a young man of the town who had recently fallen in action on the Western Front The service had been delayed by some weeks to allow all the members of his family travel to Nova Scotia from various locations in Canada and the United States.
At 8.00pm on the 3rd August 1916, the commanding officer of 11th (Service) Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment (Cambs) held a conference with his Company Commanders about the forthcoming attack the next day.
As the operational orders were read allowed, the enemy sent across a barrage of shells which landed close to battalion HQ. Four other ranks were killed outright, and one later died of wounds. Also killed was the newly arrived Second Lieutenant V.K. Mason.
Canadian by birth, Vere Karsdale Mason was born on 23rd October 1893 in Falkland Ridge in Annapolis, Nova Scotia. The son of the late Francis Mason, the family originally came from New Germany, Lunenberg County, Nova Scotia, where they had been prosperous farmers. He attended his local school where he carried off high honours in all subjects. His academic qualities ensured him a place at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, where he graduated in 1914 with honours in four subjects and an “A” in athletics. Described as “an enthusiastic athlete, making the football, hockey, baseball and track teams. He was of irreproachable character, and sterling worth, a characteristic gentleman and a favorite with all." He was a naturally gifted individual.
On 8th September 1914, he won a much-coveted Rhodes scholarship to Oxford. Generally accepted as one of the worlds most prestigious scholarships, it was established in 1902, by the great imperialist Cecil Rhodes. It was Rhodes goal to create generations of future young colonialists who would be a “moral force of character, with an instinct to lead.”
During his time before Oxford, he spent a few weeks with Friends in Montreal, where he enlisted into a unit of hospital volunteers being formed at McGill University. Inspired to join the war effort in Europe, he wrote to his mother on 22nd October 1914; “Tomorrow I am 21 and tomorrow I enlist.”
After travelling with the unit to Nova Scotia, they were ordered overseas in early 1915, and he soon found himself in England. He had been due to travel there they previous October, to take is place at Pembroke College, but he was destined never to study at Oxford.
He remained with this unit until March 1915 when it was ordered to France. Detained in England, Vere was anxious to do more. He volunteered for active service overseas and after a six week course at the “Military School” in Ipswich, he was commissioned into the 11th Battalion on 1st February 1916. Remaining in England until 30th June 1916, before he was ordered overseas to join the Battalion at the Front in France.
Upon arrival with the Battalion in early July, he wrote to his mother “ I have 25 men under me and I feel that I can back up against the whole German army.” He joined the Battalion as they were reeling from their courageous, but costly, attack at La Boiselle on the 1st July. “Knowing him as we do” wrote a friend “we know that during the strenuous days of July and August he was doing his “bit” and doing it well."
His last letter home to his mother in late July was prophetic. It ran; “I don’t want to be taken prisoner and I don’t want to be wounded. If I have to die I want to be killed outright.” Within days of her receiving his letter, she received the news of his death on the 3rd August.
Acadia University today, still awards the Vere Karsdale Mason Scholarship, created in his honour in 1918. It is traditionally awarded to first year students who have “combined academic achievement with citizenship and sporting behavior.” Preference is given still, to students from the farming community.
A soldier of the Empire, who found himself by the course of war, serving in the Suffolk Regiment, had he have lived, he would have most certainly risen to higher things; not only for Canada, but maybe, for the World.
Vere Karsdale Mason is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.