Ruth Forrest MLC, Member for Murchison, visits the grave of her great-uncle, Private George Mason.
“…difficult to let him go…”
George Bernard Mason was the 19-year-old son of Sarah Jane Mason. George assisted running the family farm at Barrington, in north west Tasmania, before his mother signed the consent for her only son to go to war in 1916.
George’s great-niece, Ruth Forrest MLC Member for Murchison, was told “whilst Sarah Jane signed this consent it would have been difficult to ‘let her son go’ with the demands of running a farm at such times as a widow.”
In 2013, Ruth researched Private George Mason for the Frank MacDonald Memorial Study Tour, which visited the Western Front in France and Belgium. Ruth represented the Tasmanian Parliament and laid wreaths on behalf of the Parliament of people of Tasmania at the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Villers Bretonneux, in France, and at the Menin Gate, at Ypres Belgium.
From Ruth’s research it appears George was a “fit and healthy young man and there were no records of any admissions to hospital or medical care, other than receiving routine vaccinations and inoculations prior to embarkation”.
Bogged in bloody trench warfare
Private George Mason enlisted on 5 October 1916 and served with the 40th Battalion in the trenches of France in 1917.
The 40th Battalion spent 1917 bogged in bloody trench warfare in Flanders. In June the 40th Battalion took part in the Battle of Messines and in October the battle of Broodseinde Ridge, which resulted in 6,500 casualties for Australia.
George was wounded in action on 6 October 1917 and died of wounds at the 2nd Anzac Casualty Main Dressing Station in the field in Belgium. His death occurred one year and one day since he had enlisted in Tasmania.
Private Mason was buried at Ypres Reservoir North Cemetery in Belgium, with a simple wooden cross marking his original grave.
Private Mason is honoured on the Roll of Honour at the War Memorial in Sheffield, Tasmania, and at the Australian War Memorial, in Canberra.
When Ruth travelled to Western Front with the Frank MacDonald Memorial Study Tour she made a pilgrimage to the grave of Private George Mason and placed a poppy beside his name at the Australian War Memorial.
Ruth also researched another relative, Private David Samuel Emmerton for the Frank MacDonald Study Tour and viewed his inscriptions in the Roll of Honour at the Villers-Bretonneux Australian War Memorial in France.
After the war
After the war, Private George Mason’s sister, Edna, met and married William James Emmerton, who served with the 40th Battalion. Edna and William Emmerton are the grandparents of Ruth Forrest MLC.
Find out about other Frank MacDonald Memorial Study Tour research and pilgrimages.