Private Henry Mather

Pte. Henry Mather

Private Henry Mather was born on a farm in a Methodist community in Mathers Corners, Hiawatha, just outside of Peterborough, to Duncan and Amelia Mathers on Jan. 2, 1889. Amelia Mathers passed away in 1894 leaving Duncan, who later married Agnes Thompson, with two young children to raise and a farm to run. Henry was the eldest of Duncan’s seven children, two with Amelia and five with Agnes. The Mather family descended from the group of Irish settlers that immigrated to British North America in 1825 led by Peter Robinson, MPP of Upper Canada (now Southern Ontario). Their ancestors settled in what later became Mathers Corners. Like his father, Mather was a farmer prior to enlisting. Private Mather neither married nor fathered any children before going to war.

Mather enlisted on Dec. 31, 1915. Similar to many young men who enlisted with the Canadian Armed Forces during World War One, Mather had no military experience or training prior to enlisting. Though given his birth registration he would have been only 26, his enlistment papers attribute an “apparent age” of 27. The document goes on to describe him as 5’9.5”, with a dark complexion, hazel eyes, and dark brown hair. Mather’s address was listed as Agnes Mathers’ home in Keene, 

Private Henry Mather photographed by Roy Studios, Peterborough. Peterborough Museum & Archives, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images, 2000-012-014813-1.

Ontario and his next of kin was listed as his younger brother, Robert Jas Mather of Spruce Bluff, Saskatoon. Henry Mather was cleared for service on Jan. 8, 1916 and, after receiving a clean bill of health, obtained the service number 195482 and joined the 93rd Battalion out of Peterborough as a Private.
  
At its height, the 93rd Battalion consisted of 36 officers and 868 other ranked members. Private Mather was a member of the Battalion’s Military Police. Since there was no permanent, organized Military Police regiment in the Canadian Armed Forces, soldiers formed temporary police units to enforce sanitation standards, regulate civilian tradesmen, and maintain order, among other duties. On July 15, 1916 the 93rd Battalion sailed from Halifax for Liverpool, England aboard the S.S. Empress of Britain. The unit arrived ten days later and soon reinforced the Canadian corps in the field.
  



93rd Battalion Military Police

The original copy from Roy Studio of the 93rd Battalion Military Police. Peterborough Museum & Archives, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images, 2000-012-013951-1.

While he was a member of the 93rd Battalion Mather volunteered to join the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Private Mather was promoted to Corporal on Aug. 11, 1916 but was demoted at his own request on Sept. 14 in order to fight on the front lines. He was transferred to the 20th Battalion the next day.

Private Mather travelled with the Expeditionary Force to Boulogne, France on Apr. 23, 1917 and then to Écault, France on May 11. During his time in service Mather had a total of three hospital visits, the last of which required him to be sent to a rest camp in France on June 2, which was his last recorded location prior to his death.

On Aug. 15, 1917 just one year and seven months after he enlisted, Pte. Mather was killed in action in France. Records show that he died in the field, but include no cause of death. News of his death was reported from the base and was, according to his military file, officially noted on Sept. 19, 1917. The location of Pte. Mather’s body and his cause of death are unknown. His name appears on the Peterborough War Memorial, the Vimy Ridge Memorial and page 291 of the First World War Book of Remembrance. His stepmother Agnes and brother Robert received his Memorial Cross. Agnes obtained all of Henry’s possessions via a signed military will that stated, “In the event of my death I give the whole of my effects and property to my mother Mrs. Agnes Isabell Mather of the Hiawatha Post Office, Ontario, Canada.” Based on the Vimy Foundation’s diligent research, Pte. Henry Mather was most likely killed on the first day of the Battle of Hill 70. Private Mather was fighting with the 20th Battalion alongside Sgt. Frederick Hobson (who received the Victoria Cross posthumously for his courage in the battle) when he was killed. His death on the first day of the battle would explain why there are no records of his grave or method of death, since the Battle of Hill 70 lasted six days.
  


Pte. Mathers with his siblings, before going to war

Private Henry Mather with his siblings before he left to fight overseas. Back Row: Andrew, Cecil, and Margret. Front Row: Thomas, Norman, and Henry. Robert Mather is absent, as he was in Saskatchewan. Peterborough Museum & Archives, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images, 2000-012-016359-1.

Research by Sophie Turner and Jayden Davies-Neira

Bibliography

Canadian Military Police Virtual Museum. “Canadian Army Military Police 1914 - 1920.” Canadian Military Police Virtual Museum. mpmuseum.org/Index3.html

Government of Canada. “Cecil Bennett.” The Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Veterans Affairs Canada. http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials
/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/618453 (retrieved October 26, 2018).

Government of Canada. “Henry Mather.” The Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Veterans Affairs Canada. http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials
/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/1571710?Henry%20Mather (retrieved October 26, 2018).

Government of Canada. “Page 291 From Book: First World War.” Veterans Affairs Canada. http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/books
/page?book=1&page=291&sort=pageAsc (retrieved January 18, 2018).


Mather, Henry. Attestation paper. 1915. RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 6028 - 17. Library and Archives Canada, Government of Canada. www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=137600 (retrieved 24 October 2016).

Peterborough Examiner. “When the 93rd went to war: Panoramic photograph offers a look at Confederation Square and the neighbourhood around it in 1916.” Peterborough Examiner. June 9, 2014. https://www
.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/living-story/8207752-when-the-93rd-went-to-war-panoramic-photograph-offers-a-look-at-confederation-square-and-the-neighbourhood-around-it-in-1916/.

Peterborough Museum & Archives, Andrew Mather Kent - Otonabee Township fonds, 1973-018.

Peterborough Museum & Archives, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images, 2000-012-014813-1.

Peterborough Museum & Archives, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images, 2000-012-016359-1.

The Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment. “Regimental Customs & Traditions.” The Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment, May 2014. https://www
.theregiment.ca/regimental-customs-traditions/.

Vimy Foundation. “The Battle of Hill 70: A Centenary Action.” Vimy Foundation. August 15, 2017. http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/battle-of-hill-70/.
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