Monday 11 November 2013

Private Wilford (Ford) Wiltsie Mathers

Ford Mathers in 1913 at a YMCA camp
Born on 22 December 1894 (or 1895) in Neepawa (or Neeneetawa), Manitoba - son of William J. Mathers, Vancouver, British Columbia - at the time of his enlistment in 1915: trade as McGill student; single; no current or previous military service; Methodist; height of 5 feet 10 inches; chest of 36.5 inches fully expanded; fair complexion; grey eyes; ruddy hair.

Attended Lord Roberts public school and King Edward High School, Vancouver - attended McGill College, British Columbia, in the faculty of Arts from 1914 to 1915 - member of the McGill College Officers' Training Corps during 1914-1915 session - "He was a keen athlete, playing tennis, rugby and basketball, and he took an active part in Y.M.C.A. work."

Members of "D" Company, 38th Battalion, preparing to
depart from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, for
overseas service with Princess Patricia's
Canadian Light Infantry
Joined the 38th Battalion, CEF, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on 5 March 1915 (number 411045) - sailed for England on 29 May 1915 - transferred to Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry on 16 July 1915 - joined the PPCLI in the field on 28 July 1915 - wrote to his younger brother Bill on 5 August 1915: "Our impression of the trenches are most favourable.  The portion of the line we are holding is most elaborately rigged out and we have great sport cooking our meals etc." - wrote to his brother Bill on 7 August 1915: "Our position along here is very quite [sic] the Germans aren't doing much and it is only the novelty of the thing that is prompting us to ping away at the sky or distant parapet of the Germans.  This morning I was on guard in the firing line from 2 AM until 4 AM and enjoyed myself immensely shooting away into space whenever one of the Star Lights when [sic] up and lighted up the whole country around about.  All you can see over our trenches is a continuous pile of sand bags and old shell wrecked houses in behind them about quarter of a mile way.  Once in a while stray shots come over & whizz away over our heads.  The main thing is to keep your head down and not get to anxious to see what is going on.  Once in a while the Artillery on either side just to show each other they are there open up and we can hear they [sic] whizz over head and see them burst in the distance.  Its great when our Batteries get their guns trained on the german firing line and we can watch them bursting over theirs." - served as a member of No.1 Company, Machine Gun Section, through winter 1915 and spring 1916 - declared missing, presumed dead, on 4 June 1916 - "...he was reported missing, being last seen in action with the guns near St. Eloi." - name inscribed on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (panel 10), Belgium.

(Many thanks to Mike Mathers, Pte Mathers' nephew, for the additional information and images.)

(sources: Library and Archives Canada (, online attestation papers; Canadian War Museum, 19740281-001, Manu 58F 2 3, 207th Canadian Infantry Battalion and 38th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Nominal Roll; The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Regimental Museum, A400-0007, Master Personnel List for the 38th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force; Commonwealth War Graves Commission, "Debt of Honour" register,; Anonymous, Record of Service 1914-1918: University of British Columbia, McGill British Columbia, Vancouver College (Vancouver: Lionel Ward & Company, Ltd., 1924), p.85; e-mail from Mike Mathers, 9 November 2013)