Lieutenant Colonel E. G. Mason
50th (Mason’s Man-Eaters) Battalion
To add to our woe the last day of the Battle of Ancre Heights, our beloved Colonel Mason was evacuated to England, victim of the cruel weather, the unbelievably vile conditions in the front line, and the physical demands and mental stress made on men of great responsibility under fire.
(Victor Wheeler, The 50th Battalion in No Man’s Land, 31)
Born on 26 October 1874 in Hamilton, Ontario, Edward George Mason was a surgeon and physician in Calgary. He graduated from McGill University in 1902 and moved west to establish a practice in Alberta. A noted football player and militiaman, he was appointed to organize the 50th Battalion in November 1914.
The battalion, nicknamed “Mason’s Man-Eaters,” deployed to France in August 1916 as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade in the 4th Division. Signaller Victor Wheeler credited Mason with instilling discipline and confidence in the men during the early days of fighting in the trenches. As a doctor, “it seemed natural for him to look out for his ‘patients.’” Mason remained in command until the battle of Ancre Heights on 11 November 1916.
Blown up by a German shell, a concussed Mason was invalided to England. Wheeler noted that the battalion would “sorely miss the psychological support and exemplary personal leadership of our courageous leader.” Mason attempted to rejoin his unit on the front but was found to still be medically unfit. He spent the rest of the war attached to the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a surgeon at Shorncliffe hospital.
In 1928, he became doctor of psychiatric medicine at the University of Alberta and was one of the original members of the Alberta Eugenics Board. He worked as a neuro-psychiatrist at the Colonel Belcher Hospital, treating shell-shocked patients.
He died in Calgary on 3 January 1947.