Harry Mason, a 25-year-old soldier, wrote his final letter to his love, Sadie Arbuckle, in April 1917. Six days later, Mason was killed in action when his plane was shot down over Arras, France.

“It’s very strenuous Sweetheart and I’m tired…what’s the use Sadie of all this horrible slaughter, surely it has gone far enough now for the world to learn its futility…am afraid Sweetheart that this is getting on my nerves, the horror of it all is too continuous,” Mason wrote just before his death.

A new online exhibit curated by Archives Ontario showcases Mason’s correspondence with Arbuckle in the years before and during the First World War.

Once brimming with enthusiasm and patriotism, Mason’s final letters to Arbuckle show a man suffering from the heavy toll of war. 

The newly published love letters provide a glimpse into Mason’s life as a solider and Arbuckle’s life as an office worker living in an upper-middle class milieu in Toronto’s Queen Street East neighbourhood.

The romance was sparked in 1913 after Arbuckle wrote to Mason -- the business partner of her close friend Jack Wulff -- as a courtesy.

The two likely met for the first time in 1915 after Mason had already enlisted for war. He visited Toronto on his first leave from training camp in Ontario and spent a day with Arbuckle, which he described as “the most satisfying and pleasant (day) I have ever spent.”

But after receiving word that he would be deployed to England, Mason begged Arbuckle not to love him.

“Sweetheart I wonder if I shall ever see your dear face again if I will ever hold you very close to me and kiss you oh I cannot hardly bear to go…please Dear don’t love me, don’t please Sadie, not now ,” he wrote.

Mason left for England on May 16, 1916, and wrote to Arbuckle, sometimes daily, providing accounts of life on the front lines until his death the following year.

A travelling exhibit beginning in June will make its way across museums and cultural centres throughout Ontario, featuring donated diaries, letters, photographs, posters and art, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.