William Francis Mason 1894-1977: Child Immigrant, Canadian Soldier
On March 31, 1908, Frank Mason was one of a group of 62 boys brought to Canada by Rev. Dr. Stephenson on the ship, Dominion, their destination, Hamilton, Ontario. He was sent to the Fricker farm in West Flamborough. Frank left the bustling children’s home and took up residence in a house with aged couple.
Frank enlisted in the army in September 1915 and was assigned to the 86th Machine Gun Battalion. He had maintained contact with a family member back in England, May Mason, and listed her as his next-of-kin. After taking part in battles at Ypres and Vimy Ridge, Frank was sent to Passchendaele where he suffered severe wounds. He was hospitalized in France, then sent to England and finally to the military hospital in Burlington, Ontario. Recurring infections forced him to have an amputation.
After recovery, Frank returned to the area that had become home to him, Millgrove in West Flamborough Township. In 1926, he married Estelle Mitchell. The couple had three daughters: Ruth, Florence and Sylvia. Ruth writes that her father suffered as a child and teenager but that he was a courageous man who loved Canada and after the war, chose to make his home here. He had a loving family, she says, and “treated his girls like pearls.”
Frank Mason endured loneliness and isolation in a strange land but he courageously fulfilled his duties as child farm labourer and as a Canadian soldier. I’ve said this several times but I’ll say it again – isn’t it incredible that so many immigrant children enlisted and fought for a country that in many instances didn’t provide them with a comfortable and loving home.
Frank died on November 17, 1977 at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington at age 83. He’s buried in Millgrove Cemetery.