Private Henry Mather

     Private Henry Mather was born on a farm just outside of Peterborough in Mather’s Corners, Hiawatha to Duncan and Amelia Mathers on January 2, 1889. Henry Mather could trace his lineage to the Peter Robinson Group of 1825 when his ancestors settled in what would later be Mather’s Corners. His father later married Agnes Thompson after Mather’s mother, Amelia, passed away leaving Duncan Mather with two young children and a farm to run. Henry was the eldest of Duncan Mather’s children, surpassing six siblings and half-siblings. Mather was born and raised in the Methodist community.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Mather listed his occupation prior to enlisting as a farmer. During his time in service Mather’s next of kin was listed as his younger brother Robert Jas Mather of Spruce Bluff, Saskatoon and his address is listed as him living with his step-mother Agnes Thompson in Keene, Ontario. Private Mather was killed in battle before he was able to marry or have children.

     Mather enlisted on the 31st of December, 1915, his enlistment papers describe Mather as approximately years of age, five feet, nine and a half inches in height with a dark complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. His only distinctive marking was a scar on the base of his

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

left big toe and on the 8th of January, 1916 Mather was cleared for service. After receiving a clean bill of health Mather obtained the service number 195482 and joined the ranks as a Private in the 93rd Battalion of Peterborough. At the height of its existence, the 93rd Battalion consisted of 36 officers and 868 other ranks. Although Mather’s military service began in the 93rd Battalion, he was transferred to the 20th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry on the 15th of September 1916 while overseas. Enlistment papers show that while he was in the 93rd Battalion he volunteered to join the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force and the Canadian Government gladly took him up on his offer. Mather was promoted from Private to Corporal on the 11th of August 1916 but was demoted at the request of Mather on the 14th of September 1916. According to documents, Mather requested this reversal of rank in order to ‘go to seas’ and fight on the front lines. The day after he made this request Mather’s was transferred to the 20th Battalion. It is noted that prior to his enlistment Mather had no other military experience or training, similar to many of the other young men who enlisted with the Canadian Military during World War One.

     While serving in the 93rd battalion Mather was a member of the 93rd Battalion Military Police. Soldiers formed temporary Military Police units due to the fact that there was no permanent or organized regiment of Military Police within the Canadian Army. Men joined these units through local recruitment and were expected to enforce sanitary regulations, regulate civilian tradesmen and maintain order, among other duties. Private Henry Mather joined the 93rd Battalion Military Police shortly after enlisting and prior to sailing overseas to England in 1916.

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

     On the 15th of July, 1916, the 93rd Battalion sailed from Halifax for England aboard the S.S. Empress of Britain. The unit arrived in Liverpool, England on the 25th of July, 1916 and worked to provide reinforcements to the Canadian Corps in the field. On the 15th of September, 1916 Mathers was transferred to the 20th Battalion of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. From there he travelled to Boulogne, France on the 23rd of April, 1917 and then to Ecault, France on the 11th of May, 1917. His last known location prior to his death was at a rest camp in France, to which he arrived on the 2nd of June, 1917. During his time in service Mather had a total of three hospital visits, the last of which required him to be sent to the rest camp.

     On the 15th of August, 1917, only approximately one year and seven months after he enlisted, Mather was killed in action while in France. No records list how he died, only that he died in the field. News of his death was reported from the base and was, according to his military file, officially noted on the 19th of September 1917. The location of Henry 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. Since Henry Mather gave his life in on the battlefields of France his stepmother Agnes Mather and Brother Robert Jas Mather received his Memorial Cross.  After his death, Mather’s step-mother 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”. Although the official place of death for Private Mather is undocumented it is known that he arrived in England on the 25th of July, 1916 and perished on the 15th of August, 1917. Thanks to the Vimy Foundation’s diligent research it can be surmised that Private Henry Mather was most likely killed on the first day of the Battle of Hill 70. It is known that Private Mather was fighting with the 20th battalion alongside Sergeant Frederick Hobson (who received the Victoria Cross posthumously for his courage in the battle) when he was killed, and if Mather died in this battle on the first day it would explain why there are no records of his grave or method of death as the Battle of Hill 70 lasted six days.

Private Henry Mather with his siblings before he left to fight overseas. Back Row: Andrew Mather, Cecil Mather and Margret Mather. Front Row: Thomas Mather, Norman Mather and Henry Mather. The only missing sibling is Robert Mather 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 

Archives Canada. “Item: MATHER, HENRY (195482).” Library and Archives Canada, Government of Canada, 24 Oct. 2016,
Canadian Military Police Virtual Museum. “Canadian Army Military Police 1914 - 1920.” Canadian Military Police Corps, Canadian Military Police Virtual Museum,

Government Of Canada. “Personnel Records of the First World War: Mather, Henry.” Library and Archives Canada. October 24, 2016.

Government Of Canada. “Canadian Virtual War Memorial Cecil Bennett: In memory of Private Cecil Bennett April 9, 1917.” Veterans Affairs Canada. October 26, 2018.

Government Of Canada. “Canadian Virtual War Memorial Henry Mather: In memory of Private Henry Mather August 15, 1917.” Veterans Affairs Canada. October 26, 2018.

Government Of Canada. “Page 291 From Book: First World War.” Veterans Affairs Canada. January 18, 2018.

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.

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. “History, Customs, and Traditions The Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment.” The Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment, May 2014. Retrieved from

The Vimy Foundation. “The Battle of Hill 70: A Centenary Action.” The Vimy Foundation. August 15, 2017.