|Date of Birth||July 3, 1884|
|Place of Birth||Goldington, Bedfordshire|
|Next of Kin||Mrs O. C. Groves, Wife, 811-4th Ave South, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Bootmaker|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Age at Enlistment||31|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||December 31, 1972|
|Age at Death||88|
|Buried At||Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
Owen Charles Groves was born on July 3, 1884 in Goldington, Bedfordshire, England. He was the son of Thomas and Eliza Groves. In the 1901 England census Owen was listed as a shoemaker, which was also his father’s occupation. His siblings were Naomi, William, Annie, Oliver, Rebecca and Effie.
Owen tried to join the Royal Navy but was turned down because ‘his chest was under accepted measurement.’ Then, on January 5, 1900, at age 15, Owen attested with the 3rd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. He was only 4 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 78 lbs, yet was found fit for duty ‘as a boy’ (servant). When he turned sixteen the following summer he became a private. He served for six years and spent some time in South Africa.
By 1911 Owen was married. Owen Charles and his wife Jessie Isabel Groves were living at 220 Blythe Road, West Kensington Park, England. His occupation was a bootmaker and their first child Ida was one year old.
Owen, Jessie and their two daughters, Ida (age 3 years) and Eva (age one year) left Liverpool immigrating to Canada through the US Port of Maine and landing in Portland on April 14, 1913. Their destination was listed as Winnipeg, Manitoba with Owen’s intended occupation as bootmaker. They ended up in Kenora, Ontario and he had a shoemaker shop on Matheson Street.
By August 1914 the First World War had started and the call came to recruit men for the first contingent in Kenora. Owen was one of 24 men who quickly volunteered and he passed his medical exam. In a few days they would be notified as to who would be chosen to report to Ottawa and be outfitted for the first contingent overseas. Reporting previous service with the 2nd Battalion Border Regiment in England, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Owen remained in Kenora to train the new recruits as their drill Sergeant. Another daughter Vera was born in 1915.
In April 1916 Owen proceeded to the headquarters in Port Arthur. Before leaving Kenora drill Sergeant Groves was given special recognition for his service locally by the men of the 1st Platoon and presented with a silver wristwatch. The watch was engraved ‘To Sgt. O. C. Groves from No. 1 platoon, 94th Battalion.’ Lieutenant Bateman also presented Owen with a gift of a ‘silver mounted ebony cane.’ These gifts were very much appreciated by Owen.
Owen embarked from Halifax with the 94th Battalion on June 28, 1916. When he arrived in England he was transferred to the 32nd Battalion. On August 26, 1916 Owen reverted back to Private at his own request to proceed overseas. He joined the 5th Canadian Infantry Battalion in France on September 14, 1916. A bout of influenza sent Owen to field hospital for nearly three weeks at the end of October 1916. On November 27, 1916 he was transferred to 3rd Canadian Field Ambulance.
From the War Diary of the 3rd Canadian Field Ambulance:
‘On the night of the 17th – 18th of August (1917) the enemy made a severe gas-shell attack on the forward area near the village of Loos, rendering the work of our bearers extremely difficult. Casualties sustained by the unit – 1 officer and 59 O.R. shell gassed, 50 of whom were evacuated.’
Owen was one of the men evacuated to England. He was posted to the Canadian Army Medical Corps depot in Shorncliffe and admitted to hospital for treatment of gas poisoning until November 9, 1917. Upon his release he was attached to No. 14 General Hospital in Eastbourne. Medical issues continued to arise for Owen. He had another bout of influenza in April of 1918, problems with boils on his neck and in May of 1919 an attack of sinusitis. In early July 1919 he returned to Canada and received his official discharge on the 13th of July in Port Arthur.
Owen returned to his home in Kenora and resumed his shoemaker business. Over the winter of 1920-21 James Hughes worked for him. James was a shoemaker from Empress, Alberta and also a veteran of the war. In February 1921 Owen went to Empress to visit James’ brother, Wilson Hughes, another war veteran. When the census was taken in 1921 Owen was still listed as a shoemaker living on Matheson Street in Kenora. His family consisted of his wife, their three daughters, Ida, Eva and Vera, plus Owen’s older single brother, William. Leaving Kenora in 1925 Owen moved his family to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In 1931 Owen was able to take a trip back to England. He was likely visiting with family on Cecil Avenue in Wembley. By 1940 Owen was listed on the Winnipeg voters’ list as retired. In 1957 Owen and Jessie boarded the ship Carinthia in Montreal landing at the port of Liverpool for a three month vacation – their destination was once again on Cecil Avenue in Wembley, England.
Owen Charles Groves died December 31, 1972 at the age of 88. His burial took place on January 3, 1973 in Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. His wife Jessie died October 22, 1977 and she was laid to rest with her husband. They were survived by their three daughters: Ida (Young) of Winnipeg, Eva (George Baker) of Brandon and Vera (Mitchell) of Vancouver.
By Linda Pelletier