|Date of Birth||February 13, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Minnedosa, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Mitchie Fowler (mother), 516 Basswood Place, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Printer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Valcartier, Quebec|
|Date of Enlistment||September 23, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||20|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 10, 1917|
|Age at Death||23|
|Buried At||No known grave; commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial|
Private Harold McLaren Fowler (aka William Harold Davis) was one of three brothers who enlisted during the First World War. Harold and his brother Roy Fowler both died in Europe in 1917. Their brother Percy Fowler died of service-related illness in 1921.
Harold was the youngest of four sons of Bartholomew Fowler Jr. and Jamesina Webster Mitchell McLaren. Bartholomew Jr. was born into a large family in Oxford County, Ontario. His father, Bartholomew Sr., was born in the West Indies and his mother was from England. Harold’s mother Jamesina, known as Mitchie, was born in Mitchell, Perth County, Ontario. Bartholomew Jr. was a baker and he and Mitchie were married in Toronto in 1887. Their first child, Lawrence Morton, was born the next year in Parkdale (now part of Toronto). Another son, Thomas Percy Ogilvie, followed in 1890.
By 1891 Bartholomew Jr. and his wife had moved to Minnedosa, Manitoba where he continued to work as a baker. Their next two children were born in the Neepawa/Minnedosa area: Roy Bartholomew in 1892 and Harold on 13 February 1894. A daughter, Vera Mitchie, was born in Winnipeg in 1895. By 1900 Mitchie was listed as a widow in the Winnipeg city directories. When the 1901 census was taken she was operating a boarding house in Winnipeg and all five children were at home. When the 1911 census was taken Percy, Roy and Harold were working as printers in a press office. Harold also spent some time in Keewatin, Ontario, where he was the manager of a print shop.
Britain declared war on 4 August 1914 and three days later mobilization orders were issued in Canada. Officers and volunteers were told to enroll with their local militia then proceed to Valcartier, an area about 20 miles northwest of Quebec City that would become the site of a large military camp. Harold signed up with a cavalry unit in Winnipeg then headed east to Valcartier with the other volunteers. He enlisted with the 6th Battalion on 23 September 1914. His occupation was printer and next of kin was his mother in Winnipeg. His unit embarked in October in a convoy of 32 transport ships and arrived in the UK about two weeks later.
Harold underwent eight months of training in England. On 9 June 1915 he was sent to France in order to join the Lord Strathcona’s Horse and he spent the next eight months with his new unit. In January 1916 he was sentenced to a week of Field Punishment No. 1 for being absent from parade. On 19 February he was transferred to the Machine Gun Squadron of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. In April he was sentenced to three days Field Punishment No. 1 for breaking ranks without permission. In September the Canadians moved south to take part in the Somme Offensive but Harold was out of action due to illness (furuncles). He spent some time on base duty but contracted an infection in late October and was admitted to No. 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital. He rejoined his unit in November.
In December 1916 Harold had two weeks leave in the UK and he returned just before Christmas. During that time he was granted permission to marry but he had actually been married in 1915 in London, possibly before he was first sent to France. His wife was Hilda Emily Beechey and Harold married using the alias William Harold Davis. On 30 January 1917 he signed a declaration stating that William Harold Davis was his real name. The document is part of his service file but there is no evidence to suggest the declaration was true or that Harold McLaren Fowler was not his real name.
Harold served with the machine gun unit until July 1917 when he was sent to the Canadian Base Depot in order to transfer to the infantry. He was assigned to the 8th Infantry Battalion and he joined them in the field in early October. A short time later the battalion was sent to the Ypres Salient to take part in the assault on Passchendaele (26 October – 10 November 1917). The operation took place in several stages and by 6 November the village of Passchendaele was in Canadian hands. The last phase of the battle, the capture of some high ground to the north of the village, was planned for 10 November. It was raining heavily as the 8th Battalion advanced from their jumping off positions at 6 am that morning and they faced intense artillery and machine gun fire. The Canadian units suffered over 1,000 casualties on that final day of the assault, including 420 men killed. Harold was among those missing and presumed to have died.
His brother Roy had enlisted in Winnipeg in June 1915 and he died of wounds in February 1917. He’s buried in the Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension in France. Percy enlisted in Winnipeg in January 1916 and served in France with the 27th Battalion. He returned to Canada with a war bride in July 1919 and died of illness about two years later. He’s interred in the Field of Honour at Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. Their mother remarried in 1928 and moved to Vancouver. Sadly she passed away in Winnipeg on 11 November 1945. She had come to the city to visit her son Lawrence and attend Remembrance Day services. She’s buried in Brookside Cemetery. She was survived by her son Lawrence and daughter Vera (Mrs. John Williams). Vera died in Vancouver in 1967 and Lawrence in Winnipeg in 1978.
Harold is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium as William Harold Davis. He’s also listed on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial as William Harold Davis. He’s commemorated on the Next of Kin Monument in Winnipeg as H. McL. Fowler. His brothers Roy and Percy are also remembered on the Next of Kin Monument.
By Becky Johnson
Family photos and documents kindly provided by Harold, Percy and Roy’s great-niece, Maureen Tweedly.