|Date of Birth||August 28, 1895|
|Place of Birth||Portage la Prairie, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||James Archibald McCowan, father, Portage la Prairie Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Electrician|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Field Artillery|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 3, 1918|
|Age at Enlistment||22|
|Theatre of Service||Canada|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||September 26, 1954|
|Age at Death||59|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Albert Charles (Bert) McCowan was born on 28 August 1895 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. His father James Archibald McCowan, born in 1850, was from Scarborough, Ontario. He had married his first wife Isabelle Bowes, a Scottish immigrant, in 1875 in Pickering although the couple were to make Scarborough/Toronto their home. Together James and Isabelle had four children, Jane Isabella (Jennie) (1875), Arthur Robert (1879), Ida Rebecca (1881) and William James (1883). Sadly Isabelle died a few days after William’s birth from complications with the delivery. Unable to care for the children, James found homes for them with family and friends in the area. At some point James, an engine driver/engineer, moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. On 5 December 1894, in Portage la Prairie, James married Emily Eliza Jane Cleaver. Born in 1875 in Perth, Ontario, by the time of the 1891 census Emily was living in Portage la Prairie with her parents and some of her siblings. Children born to James and Emily in Portage la Prairie were Bert and Archibald Porteous (Archie) (1898). By the time of the 1901 census the family had relocated to Keewatin in northwestern Ontario, a few kilometres west of Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). While in Keewatin the couple gave birth to son Glenn Allen (1901). Moving back to Portage la Prairie, two more children joined the family, Hazel Jean (1906) and Norman Lloyd.
With the onset of conscription in the latter part of the war, Bert had his medical examination in Winnipeg on 27 December 1917 and was called up for service on 3 January 1918. At the time he was living in Keewatin and working as an electrician at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. He gave his father back in Portage la Prairie as next of kin. Bert was sent to Petawawa, Ontario to train as a Gunner with the 76th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. However it was found that he suffered from tachycardia and was reclassified as medical category C3. He was discharged from service as medically unfit/lower category on 7 December 1918.
Bert’s brother Archie enlisted in Winnipeg in July of 1915 and went overseas with the 78th Battalion, arriving in France to serve with the 5th Battalion. Hit by shrapnel of an exploding shell, Archie was severely wounded and invalided back to Canada in May of 1917. Bert’s brothers Glenn and Norman both served during WW2, Glenn with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons and Norman with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry. Stationed in England and Belgium, Norman married in Belgium, returning to Canada with his war bride Lucienne.
On 7 September 1921, in Keewatin, Bert married Janet Florence Galloway. Born on 22 April 1895 in Arthur, Ontario, Janet was the daughter of Cyrus and Jane Scott Small. By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to Keewatin where Cyrus found work as a shoemaker. Three of Janet’s brothers had served during the war. With the onset of conscription William, Cecil, and Norman had signed their recruitment papers and were also called up in 1918 to train with the 76th Battery, CFA. William and Cecil served in England, returning to Canada in 1919. Norman had proceeded overseas to the 9th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery and was reported as killed in action on 27 September 1918. With no known grave, Norman is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial as well as the Keewatin Cenotaph and other Keewatin memorial plaques.
Bert and Janet made Keewatin their home where Bert worked as an electrician for the Lake of the Woods Milling Company for 39 years. The couple gave birth to two children, Florence (1922-2002) and William Albert (1925-1992). Bert was a member of the Keewatin Branch of the Canadian Legion, was a Past Master of the Keewatin Masonic Lodge AF & AM, and served as an alderman on the Keewatin Town Council for a number of years.
Bert died on 26 September 1954 in the Winnipeg General Hospital. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Janet of Keewatin, daughter Florence of Winnipeg, son William and family of Keewatin, mother Emily and siblings Jean Armstrong, Norman, and Glenn and their families, all of Winnipeg. He was predeceased by his father James in 1933 in Portage la Prairie and brother Archie in 1953 in Heppner, Oregon. Janet died on 18 November 1978 and is interred with Bert in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. Bert’s brother Glenn died in 1956, mother Emily in 1978 (age 102), sister Jean Armstrong Ellis in 1994, and brother Norman in 2006, all in Winnipeg.
Bert is commemorated for his service on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour plaque, the Keewatin For King and Country plaque, and the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour plaque.
By Judy Stockham