Henry Mason (1864-1943) was born in Ashby Parva in 1863 to parents George (c1820-1909) and Elizabeth Simon (c1827-1911), who kept a prosperous farm of about 150 acres which adjoined the Midland Railway line. They married by special license at Brighton in 1855. He had three older brothers John (1857-), George (1859-), Edward (1860-). He was baptised, like his brothers, at the parish church of Ashby Parva on 10th May 1863. Henry’s father was a constable and seems to have been a kindly man, purchasing and distributing coal to the poor families of the parish. In 1872 the family moved to a larger farm of 400 acres at Four Elms Lodge, Ullesthorpe.
Henry’s brothers followed their father into farming, but by 1881 Henry was a student of medicine at Glasgow. He qualified as a doctor in 1884 at Glasgow and by 1887 had established a medical practice at 68 Rutland Street. It was successful enough to enable Henry to marry Cecilia Florence Norman (1867-1962) at St Wulfrun, Grantham, on 24th April 1891. Henry and Cecilia had three children, Henry Kingsley “Kingsley” (1893-1972), Alan Edward Glendenning (1896-1916) and Philip de Roos (1899-1948). By May the 1893 family lived at 73 Welford Road and by 1896 at 52 London Road. In 1901 Henry and Cecilia settled 66 London Road, where they remained until 1930.
In 1916 Henry served as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, possibly working at the 5th Northern General Hospital. After the war he continued working at 66 London Road, moving to live at Birstall Spinney between 1931 and 1943. He died at Leicester Royal Infirmary while living with his son Philip, who was also a doctor, at 376 London Road on 17th April 1943.
Alan Glendenning Mason was born in 1896 and baptised at St Martin’s on 23rd July 1896. He attended Wyggeston Boys School, where he excelled at athletics. At his school sports day in June 1912 he won silver cups for coming first in the 120 yards hurdle race and the high jump and a silver tankard for coming second in the 100 yards sprint. This crowned him joint school sports champion. In June 1914 Alan captained the school cricket team against Derby School, who won by a single run. He passed his Oxford Local Examination with the highest honours and was awarded at Magdalen College, Oxford, intending to follow his father into medicine.
However, Alan did not take up his place. He had barely left school when he joined the Leicestershire regiment on the outbreak of war. The Wggestonian magazine recorded “We are particularly pleased to see that AEG Mason has obtained a commission in the 10th Leicesters. He has gone up to Oxford to train for a few weeks with the OTC before taking up his new position. We wish him all success, and are confident that he will bring honour to the School.” He accepted a commission as Temporary Second Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment on 22nd January 1915. He left Ludgershall for Folkestone at 5pm on 29th July 1915 with the rest of his battalion and landed at Boulogne at about midnight. The battalion slept in tents nearby for the remainder of the night before moving off to Pont a Bric. The next few days were spent acclimatising and being instructed in trench warfare. By Christmas 1915 Alan was serving in the trenches. The war diarist recorded on Christmas Day: “The battalion relieved by 9th battalion in usual way. Very wet. A quiet day.” He also recorded some of the harsh reality of trench life – for example on 6th Feb 1916 “In the evening while patrolling the wire an NCO of Group II was mortally wounded. His cries caused a considerable amount of fire to be opened from the trenches about 100 yds away. Still several men and officers went out to his assistance and a gap was cut in the wire and he was brought in on a stretcher. He died the following day.”
The surviving war diary ends on 26th June 1916 shortly before Alan died. In the previous few days the battalion were at Baillemont. Several junior officers were wounded and invalided to England but Alan was not among them. Alan died of wounds on 30th June 1916 and was buried at Doullens Cemetery Extension No 1.
The Leicester Mercury reported on 3rd July 1916
LEICESTER OFFICER DIES OF WOUNDS
SECOND LIEUTENANT ALAN MASON
We deeply regret to learn that Dr Mason, of London-road Leicester, has received official intimation of the death, from wounds, in France, on Friday last, of his second son, Second Lieutenant Alan E G Mason. The deceased was educated at the Wyggeston School and it is a tragic circumstance that on the day of his death, at the annual school sports, his younger brother, F de R Mason, completed a triumvirate of distinction in athletics by winning all six events, all three sons of Dr Mason having thus in turn become Victor Ludorum. The deceased officer, who completed his 20th year this spring, was, in fact, Victor Lodorum two years in succession, and was among the most popular School Captains that Wyggeston School has ever had. More than this, he had won distinction in is studies, passing all three grades at the Oxford Local Examination, the Senior in the first class, and just before the war he had won an Open Science Demyship Scholarship at Magdalen College, Oxford.
Destined for his father’s profession, there seemed to be before him a brilliant career but, like many other young fellows, on the outbreak of hostilities, he threw aside his prospects and joined up as a “ranker” in the Leicester Territorials. In February of last year he was given a commission in one of the additional battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment, and in due course went out to France. The current issue of The Wyggestonian contains a cheery letter which he wrote a short while ago to the headmaster.
The greatest sympathy will go out in their sad bereavement to Dr and Mrs Mason. Their eldest son H Kingsley Mason, is also in the Imperial Forces, having joined the City of Regina Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.
A memorial notice was also placed in the Leicester Mercury on 29th June 1918: “MASON – In loving memory of Alan E G Mason, 2nd Lieut., of Leicestershire Regt., who died of wounds in France, June 30th, 1916.”
The letter referred to in the article had been sent by Alan to his former headmaster on 16th March 1916. It read:
“We are all hoping we have seen the last of the cold weather for this year, at any rate, it is now beautifully warm spring weather. Indeed trench life is quite pleasant just at present, and I can imagine many situations worse than sitting in warm sun watching our artillery attending to the Boches, with an occasional air encounter thrown in as diversion. Air fights, however, are very disappointing; you see the opposing planes circling round each other, you hear the distant rattle of their machine guns, but it is only very rarely that anything sensational follows the fight. They generally fly round each other till they get tired of it; they then steer off by mutual consent.
I should have been home on leave by now, but unfortunately leave has been stopped indefinitely. The struggle at Verdun is the rumoured reason, but the Army is the most wonderful institution for producing rumours that I have come across.”
Henry Kingsley Mason was born on 7th March 1893 and baptised St Martin’s on 11th May 1893. He attended Wyggeston Boys School where, like his younger brother, he excelled at sports and was crowned school champion. By adulthood Henry had very dark brown hair and blue eyes and was 5’10” tall.
After leaving school Henry worked as a bank clerk. On 22nd November 1912 he arrived at Quebec, Canada, intending to settle. He returned to England for a short time and then on 27th February 1913 he left Liverpool aboard the White Star “Cymric” bound for Halifax, Canada. He was intending to set up as a farmer. He lived at Francis, Sask at the outbreak of war.
On 8th March 1916, the day after his twenty third birthday, Kingsley enlisted at Regina, Sask, Canada. He joined the 32nd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force as a private soldier, which was absorbed into the 15th Battalion the following January. Henry wrote a standard soldier’s will in September 1916, leaving his real estate to his father and all personal possessions to his mother. The significance of writing a will aged 23 cannot have been lost to Henry as his younger brother had died fighting just eight weeks previously. Perhaps the will was prompted by the “serious bout of pneumonia” reported by The Wyggestonian magazine, from which he recovered.
In November 1916 Henry returned to his native England, sailing from Halifax to Liverpool on the “Empress of Britain”. He spent time training at Bramshott, Crowborough and Seaford, where he transferred to the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade. He arrived in France for service in the field on 3rd September 1917, returning on 31st May 1918 to take up a temporary commission in the Royal Air Force. By this time Henry had risen in rank to Acting Sergeant in the 195th (City of Regina) Battalion. He had also increased his chest measurement two inches, if his service record is to be believed. Henry was appointed Flight Cadet on 16th November 1918. Henry seems to have been uninjured whilst on active service. His only hospital visit between 1916 and the end of the war was a two week stay at Camp Hughes, Winnipeg, suffering from tonsillitis.
On 5th October 1919 Henry married Elfrida Kathleen Bull (1895-1920) at St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Quebec. Henry’s address was Moose Jaw, Sask. Elfrida was born in Kettering , where she still lived in 1911 with her widowed mother. She travelled from Liverpool to Montreal, arriving on 5th October 1919 – Kingsley and Elfrida were married the very same day. By now Henry had returned to work as a bank clerk. Elfrida died just a short time after in 1920, perhaps in childbirth or possibly from Spanish ‘Flu, which was still active in Canada until the mid-1920s. She was buried at Moose Jaw City Cemetery.
At some point after Elfrida’s death Henry returned to England and lived with his parents at Bistall Spinney. He married Hilda Frances Hobson (1899-1983) at St Stephen’s, Norbury, on 28th February 1925. They settled in Derbyshire, where Hilda gave birth to a daughter, Ann (1930-), in 1930. From at least 1943 until Henry died they lived at 7 Darley Park Rd, Darley Abbey. Henry died in 1972 and Hilda in 1983.