Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 1, 1895
Place of BirthBattersea, London
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinElizabeth Rowe (mother), 205 Ogden Street, Fort William, Ontario
Trade / CallingMillwright's helper
Service Details
Regimental Number198948
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo. 51 District, No. 121 Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentFort William, Ontario
Address at Enlistment205 Ogden Street, Fort William, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 14, 1916
Age at Enlistment20
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 16, 1969
Age at Death74
Buried AtMountain View Cemetery, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Rowe, George

Acting Sergeant George Rowe enlisted in February 1916 and served overseas for three years. He was wounded in October 1916 at the Somme Offensive and returned to Canada in July 1919 with a war bride.

George was the only son of George Charles Rowe and Elizabeth Veal of Fort William, Ontario. George Sr. was born in Herefordshire, England and Elizabeth in London. They were married in 1885 and their two oldest children were born in Battersea, London: Lily Ann (1888) and Robert George (1 June 1895). Lily and George were both baptized on 5 September 1895 at St. Paul’s Church in Battersea. Their father was employed as a wood and coal dealer. Sometime in the next few years the family immigrated to Canada and another daughter, Rose Ethel, was born in Fort William, Ontario in August 1899.

When the 1901 census was taken Rowes were living in Silver Creek, a small community just west of Fort William. In 1907 their daughter Lily married James William Douglas in Fort William. At the time of the 1911 census James and Lily were living in Kenora, Ontario and George was staying there with them. He was 16 years old and employed as a painter for the Hudson’s Bay Company. His parents had moved to Fort William by 1911 and his father died there of phthisis in July 1912.

The war was in its second year when George enlisted on 14 February 1916. He signed up in Fort William with the 94th Battalion, which was being recruited in northwestern Ontario. His occupation was millwright’s helper and next of kin was his mother Elizabeth. After training locally for a few months George left for the east coast with his battalion on 9 June. They spent a short time at the military camp in Valcartier, Quebec before embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic. They arrived in Liverpool about nine days later.

George was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion and in early August he spent a week in Moore Barracks Hospital, suffering from influenza. At the end of the month he was drafted to the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) and sent to France. When he joined his new unit in late September they were in the Albert area, where the Canadians were taking part in the Somme Offensive. The 16th Battalion moved to the front trenches on 7 October and carried out an assault near Courcelette the following morning. During the advance the unit ran into problems with uncut barbed wire and counter-attacks by the Germans. George was one of the casualties on 8-9 October, suffering a gunshot or shrapnel wound to his face.

On 11 October George was admitted to No. 13 Stationary Hospital in Boulogne. His wound wasn’t too serious and two weeks later he was moved to a convalescent depot. While he was there he became ill and he was transferred to No. 14 Stationary Hospital in Wimereux. He was diagnosed with scarlet fever and in early December he was evacuated to England. He recovered for two and a half months at the 1st Western General Hospital in Liverpool followed by a month at the convalescent hospital in Epsom. He was discharged to duty at the end of March 1917 and assigned to the 14th Reserve Battalion.

In July George was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps and he served with them in the UK for the rest of the war. He was in No. 55 District until November 1917 then with No. 121 Company in No. 51 District (Stirling, Scotland) until the spring of 1919. For much of that time he drew technical pay as a millwright and saw filer. Forestry camps had sleeping huts, dining rooms, recreational huts, canteens, officers’ quarters, workshops and garages, bath houses, stables and medical units. Many of them also had farms where the men grew grain and vegetables for their own use.

In April 1918 George injured two fingers when he caught them between the cogwheels of a crane and he spent a week at the Military Hospital in Inverness. After getting permission, he was married on 25 January 1919 at St. Paul’s Church in Thornton Heath, Surrey. His wife, Edith Irene Beatrice Fowler, was born in Thornton Heath in 1897. She was the middle of three daughters of George Fowler, a carpenter and decorator, and Harriett Ewen.

George was appointed Acting Sergeant on 1 February 1919. By that spring forestry operations were winding down in the UK and on 22 April George was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps base depot at Sunningdale. He and his wife embarked for Canada on the SS Scotian on 22 July, arriving in Quebec about ten days later. He was discharged on demobilization on 7 August in Quebec.

George and his wife settled in Fort William and he had a long career as a millwright and mechanic. They had six children: Douglas George (born December 1919, died as an infant), Allan, Ronald, Robert Jack, Irma Doris and Joyce. George passed away on 16 December 1969, at age 74, and Edith on 9 January 1985, at age 87. They are buried at Mountain View Cemetery along with their son Douglas, George’s mother Elizabeth (1866-1937), his sister Rose (Mrs. Elihu Robert Marston) (1899-1995) and other family members.

By Becky Johnson

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Fort William and Thunder Bay newspaper articles courtesy of Thunder Bay Public Library.

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