By Bernice Mason Logan
Stirling Cashman Mason (1921-1944) as one of sixteen children born to James and Myrtle Mason in Tangier, Nova Scotia. Cashman went to a one-room school in Tangier where a single teacher taught 60 students in eleven grades. He did very well academically and when it was time to enter grade eleven, his uncle, Professor Guy Mason, offered to take him to Truro to finish high school, on a path to his goal of becoming an Anglican Clergyman.
After high school, Cashman became a theology student at King’s College in Halifax, before the days of women priests in the Anglican Church. All his fellow students were men. In 1942, Cashman felt it was his duty to sign up. As the son of a fisherman, the sea was in his blood, so he joined the Navy.
After his initial training on the East Coast, he was posted out west, where he fell in love with a beautiful girl in the W.R.C.N.S. They were both posted to the East Coast, and Cashman joined the HMCS Valleyfield. As happened many times during the war, Cashman and Julia married before he went to sea in a small ceremony in Wolfville. They were very happy, and when Julia learned she was pregnant, she left Wrens and returned to her parent’s home in Victoria, BC to await the arrival of their child.
On May 7, 1944, Jim and Myrtle Mason got word that the Valleyfield had been torpedoed, and that their son was missing. He had been on watch at the time the ship was hit. Reports from the few survivors indicated that the torpedo had split the Valleyfield in two. The fore part of the frigate sank in 90 seconds, the aft part in 6 minutes.
A surviving officer told reporters that Lieut. Cashman Mason gave his life jacket to a seriously injured seaman gasping in the water, and was in the water clinging to a life raft. Then Cashman noticed Seaman Flude struggling in the water beside him, suffering from two broken legs. Cashman guided Flude onto some floating debris, but lost his grip and fell into the cold Atlantic himself and died.
While on the Valleyfield, Lieut. Mason had prayer meetings with the crew. Afterwards, a crewmember friend wrote a small booklet about Cashman’s ministration to the seamen on the ship, and a summary of his life. A few survivors got a copy, and the Mason Family members were presented with the Memorial printing. This is the most treasured booklet I own today. During the war, Cashman’s life was cut short, like so many, many boys during the war. His happy life with Julia was not to be. Every October 21 for the past 73 years, I remember my fallen brother Cashman’s Birthday.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”