Today I was idly browsing Ancestry, checking out their “shaking leaf” hints for people on the side branches of my family tree. I checked all the “leaves” for the children of John Thomas Mason, my great great grandfather, and was surprised to find a new record for one of my great grandfather Herbert Cecil Mason’s half-siblings, Leonard Eric Mason , the son of John Thomas Mason and Dorothy Elizabeth Hodgson Mason (nee Wakerley).
I already knew that he was born in Hornsey, North London, on 11th November 1908, and was killed in action over Germany on 23rd May 1944. He is buried in Reichswald Forest War cemetery. He was a Flying Officer (Air Bomber) in the Royal Canadian Airforce, serving with 57 (RAF) Squadron.
What I didn’t know, until this morning, was what had prompted him to go to Canada.
The shaking leaf on Ancestry took me to a record from the “Canada Ocean Arrivals 1919 -1924” collection. From this I learned that Leonard Eric Mason, aged 14 ½ , had arrived in Canada in June 1923, on board the ship “Megantic”. In what is possibly his own handwriting, the record states that his object in going to Canada was “betterment”, his intended occupation was “farmer” and his passage had been paid by the Chase Farm Schools Guardians. His next of kin was his mother, D. E. Mason, living at 9 Colomb Street, East Greenwich.
I had already looked up the Chase Farm Schools a couple of years ago as I have a copy of a letter written by Leonard’s younger brother, Arthur Hayter Mason, which mentions that “whilst at at the Chase Farm Schools” he met someone who had known his father, John Thomas Mason. At the time I didn’t really understand this comment, but now I can see that as a child he was really pleased to have met someone who knew his father and could give him some information. Arthur wouldn’t have had any memories of his father, having been born just a few months before John Thomas Mason’s death.
It seems probable that Leonard and Arthur were both placed at the Chase Farm Schools sometime after their father died in 1911, and that Leonard was sent to Canada in 1923, with Arthur following in 1926.
This chance finding has given me some new topics to research. I need to locate the records of the Chase Farm Schools, and also find out more about Leonard’s life in Canada and his service with the Canadian Air Force. I have no idea whether he married or left any descendants, but if anyone reading this knows anything about him, please get in touch.
Most of his siblings and half-siblings lived to a good age, so it’s very sad that he went to Canada for “betterment” only to lose his life in WW2.