|Date of Birth||May 16, 1888|
|Place of Birth||Kalix, Norbotten|
|Next of Kin||Joe Matheson, brother, Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||St James, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||December 22, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||27|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 8, 1918|
|Age at Death||30|
|Buried At||Hourges Orchard Cemetery, Domart-Sur-La-Luce, France|
According to his attestation papers, William Matheson was born on 16 May 1888 in Kalix, Norbotten, Sweden. However a birth record was not found for him nor for the Swedish translation of his name (Vilhelm Mattsson) and it is likely that he was born in Finland. His father Matts Mattsson, arbetare (labourer), was born in 1844 in Pyhäjävi, Finland while it appears that his mother Anna Eriksdotter Nygärd, born in 1852, was from RГҐneГҐ, Norbotten. From a previous relationship, Anna had given birth to son Erik August Stahl in 1874 in OverluleГҐ, Norbotten. Known siblings of William were Ida Maria (1880-1884), Simon Joel (1885), and Adina Kornelia (1897) and it is likely that he had an additional three sisters. It appears that the family lived off and on in Finland as well as in Nederkalix, Norbotten where Joel and Adina were born.
According to the 1911 Canada census, William had immigrated to Canada in 1907. Found living on Ottawa Street in Keewatin, Ontario, he was working as a packer at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. The flour mill was one of the major employers of the Keewatin/Kenora area, drawing many recent immigrants. William was living with his half brother Erik Stahl and his wife Augusta and their daughter Ingaborg. The Stahls had emigrated from Sweden in 1906, with Erik working at the local sawmill at the time of the census.
William enlisted in Winnipeg on 22 December 1915. He gave his address as ‘Mene Own’, St James but it was probably an error caused by the differences in languages. His next of kin was his brother Joe(l) who was also living in Keewatin. Based in Winnipeg, recruiting for the 144th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles) had begun in late 1915. As a Private with the 144th Battalion William embarked from Halifax aboard the Olympic on 18 September 1916.
After arriving overseas William was transferred to the 52nd Battalion, taken on strength in the field 2 February 1917. Headquarters in Port Arthur, Ontario, the 52nd Battalion had disembarked in France on 21 February 1916. On 27 October 1917, William suffered gun shot wounds to the face/head and legs at Passchendaele Ridge, with notification sent to his brother back in Canada. He was first transferred to #9 Hospital in Rouen, then on to the Bethnal Green Military Hospital, and finally to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital in Uxbridge. On 22 December 1917 William was awarded a Good Conduct Badge.
In late March of 1918 Private William Matheson was returned to the 52nd Battalion and a few short months later, he was reported as killed in action on 8 August 1918. From the Circumstances of Death record for William: While on duty with a machine gun crew during an attack at Dodo Wood near Hourges he was killed in the ‘jumping off’ trench by enemy shell fire.’ From the War Diary for the 52nd Battalion, near Hourges, 8 August 1918: ‘Very foggy in the early morningвЂ¦. Zero hour was at 4:20 A.M. and very soon after, the Battalion commenced to move forward through a very heavy enemy barrageвЂ¦. During the attack the Battalion’s casualties were, unfortunately, fairly heavy.’ There were 6 Officers killed or wounded, Other Ranks – 8 killed, 4 died of wounds, 86 wounded and 6 missing. From the Canada at War website, a final count showed 137 men from the 52nd Battalion lost their lives that day. Private William Matheson’s final resting place is in the Hourges Orchard Cemetery, Domart-Sur-la Luce, France.
William is commemorated on page 468 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph located in Beatty Park in Keewatin, Ontario, on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country plaque, on the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour plaque, and on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Honour Roll plaque.
After the war, photograph and cemetery registration, medals and decorations and plaque and scroll were sent to William’s brother Joe(l) in Keewatin. Predeceased by his wife Annie in January of 1951, Joel died on his farm on May 17th of the same year. At the time he was survived by his sister Ida Anderson of Keewatin and three sisters back in Sweden. Joel and Annie are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.
by Judy Stockham
Grave marker photograph by Jofen on findagrave.com