Thomas A. Metheral: A lonely grave

Canadian officials had closed the case on Thomas in the 1950s, believing that all of his relatives were deceased.

“A lonely grave, somewhere in France, a lonely mother somewhere else,” read the June 5th, 1917 obituary of twenty-year-old Thomas Arthur Metheral.

Thomas was just one of tens of thousands of Canadian soldiers whose bodies were buried in unmarked graves or whose remains were decimated amid the wreckage of the war.

For his parents—Thomas John and Martha Metheral of Moosejaw, Saskatchewan—the tragedy of losing their only son was compounded by the lack of a formal burial. To never be able to visit their son’s final resting place was heartbreaking.

Born on July 7 1896, in Singhampton, Ontario, Thomas was studying at Queens University when he enlisted in September 1916 with the 196th Western Universities Battalion. He went overseas in November of that year.

Promoted to lieutenant in February 1917, he was then selected to become an aerial gunner in the 45th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps that April. Thomas completed his training on May 31st, 1917, but within six days of reaching the Western Front, his plane was shot down. Officials declared him “killed in action.” The location of his body was unknown.

Unbeknownst to his family, though, Thomas’s body was eventually recovered by German authorities and reburied in Cement House Cemetery in Langemarcke, Belgium.

Years later, in 1956, the Imperial War Graves Commission in Germany sent a letter to Ottawa saying that by chance, in the process of removing German casualties from the Great War cemeteries in Belgium, officials had discovered the body of a Canadian Soldier: Thomas Metheral.

Canadian officials had closed the case on Thomas in the 1950s, believing that all of his relatives were deceased. However, when the prospect of a living relative was brought to their attention, they re-opened the case.

In 2000, the federal government finally tracked down Thomas’ last living sister to deliver the news that his body had been found.

Ron Metheral, a cousin of Thomas, said his family cherished the soldier his honesty and good Christian character.

“He was young man and he gave his life for his country, there’s nothing more noble then that,” said Ron.

After eighty-three years of worry and uncertainty, Thomas’s family is now comforted with the knowledge that he finally received a proper burial.

“The sister and family members were surprised and delighted to know that his body had been found,” Ron said. “What a shame that his mother… never knew.”

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Great War? Submit their story and it could be included on this Great War Album website.