Queer Places:
96, Watson St., Birkenhead
Aldershot Military Cemetery Aldershot, Rushmoor Borough, Hampshire, England

Private William Edwin Mason (1897 - July 16, 1916) of the 2/5th King’s Liverpool Regiment shot himself in camp at Aldershot and in July 1916 the Dover and East Kent News informed its readers what was disclosed at the inquest in a detailed report which began, ‘Curious evidence, says the Military Mail, published at Aldershot, was heard regarding a young soldier’s strange effeminate ways at an inquest held at Aldershot.’ When Corporal Lonsdale gave evidence he stated that he had heard the report of a rifle from the tent of the deceased. On entering, he found the deceased lying on his back, and asked him what the matter was. Private Mason just raised his hand to his chest and said, ‘It’s no use, Corporal, I’m done,’ and died almost immediately from a bullet wound to the chest a few inches from his heart. Private Mason had enlisted on 15 February 1915 and had not been abroad. He was 19 years old, and unmarried. He was an effeminate man who had been away from the regiment for three days, during which time he was arrested in Dover after being discovered masquerading in women’s clothes and had been sentenced to 107 days’ military detention. He had never threatened suicide.

William Edwin Mason was the son of George, a house painter, and Christine M. Mason, of 96, Watson St., Birkenhead. He was one of 8 children. Before enlisting he was a painters office boy.

At the Dover Police Court on October 1915, before Captain R. B. Cay, R.N., H. Hobday and Edward Chitty, Rifleman Edwin Mason, 2/5th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment, was charged with giving false information when registered under the Aliens Act, section (2) of Amending Order, 1915; and, further, with being an absentee. Major Dorehill, Intelligence Officer, Dover Castle, was present on the Bench during this case.

Chief Constable Fox said that the prisoner came to Dover on October 22, 1015, night dressed in lady's attire. He went to Mr. Jarry's, Snargate Street, and filled in one of the forms required under the Aliens Restriction Order, and signed his name as " Ethel Smith." He left there on Saturday, and went to Connaught House, and filled in a form there in the name of "Queenie Mason." He was subsequently arrested and brought to the Police Station, where it was found that he was an absentee from Canterbury. Major Dorehill wished that only the charge of being an absentee should be gone into, and the prisoner handed over to an escort.

Detective Sergeant Passmore, of the Metropolitan Police, said that at about noon Saturday, October 23, he saw the accused in the Market Square, dressed as a woman. He followed him to Strond Street, and then got in conversation with him. He subsequently told him that he was a police officer, and asked him to give some particulars as to who he was. The accused said, "My name is Ethel Smith. I come from Liverpool, and I am meeting my mother here in Dover on Tuesday." Witness asked him if he shaved. The accused said, "I've never been insulted like this before, and I have been to many places and never been accosted in the street like this by anyone." Witness asked where he was staying, and he replied, "Connaught House." Witness asked him to accompany him there. Accused said, "Very well." They went there and saw the landlady. Witness asked if this "lady" had taken a room. She said, "My housekeeper let 'her' have one this morning." Witness asked to be conducted to the room, and then asked the prisoner if he had any objection to him looking through his belongings. He said, "No." Witness found various garments of female attire, and in a small drawer was a safety razor and lather brush. Witness said, "Is this yours?" He replied, "No." Witness found no military uniform with him. Prisoner was wearing a chestnut coloured wig. Witness subsequently arrested him, but did not find out that he was a soldier until about twenty minutes after he arrived at the Police Station.

Prisoner, who was now in uniform again, and who replied "No" in a soft voice, to the inquiry if he wished to say anything, was handed over to an awaiting escort. Private William Mason, King's Liverpool Regiment, received 107 days' military detention. He was described as being effeminate, but a good soldier, and one who had been subjected to some amount of "ragging" on account of being so effeminate. He commited suicide on July 16, 1916

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