Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 30, 1875
Place of BirthAshton in Makerfield, Lancashire
Marital StatusWidow(er)
Next of KinMrs. Hodgetts, 418 Seventh Avenue, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingButcher
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439659
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentPort Arthur, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 24, 1915
Age at Enlistment40
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 8, 1918
Age at Death43
Buried AtHourges Orchard Cemetery, Domart-Sur-La-Luce, France
PlotB. 37.

Lowe, Thomas (1875-1918)

The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, started with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918. The four-day operation was a remarkable success for the Canadians but it cost them over 11,000 casualties. One of the fallen was Private Thomas Lowe of Kenora, Ontario.

Thomas was originally from the county of Lancashire in northwest England. He grew up in Ashton in Makerfield, a small village in an industrial region between Manchester and Liverpool, the son of William Lowe, a shoemaker, and his wife Ann Walmsley. William and Ann were married in 1869 and they had four sons: Charles (1870), Francis (1872), Thomas (30 August 1875) and William (1879). When the 1891 census was taken Thomas was 16 years old, living at home and working as a locksmith. Both of his parents died in the 1890s and in 1901 Thomas and William were living with their oldest brother Charles, who was married with two young children. Ashton in Makerfield was in a coal mining district and both Charles and Thomas were working in the mines. William had taken up his father’s profession and was employed as a clogger. By the time of the 1911 census Thomas had moved to the nearby town of Warrington where he’d found work as a butcher. He was one of five boarders staying in the home of Nimrod Twist, who was also a butcher. On 7 January 1912 Thomas married Mrs. Nimrod Twist’s sister Martha Hodgetts. Fifteen months later Thomas and Martha immigrated to Canada, arriving on 12 April 1913 on the Empress of Britain. Their destination was Kenora, Ontario where Martha’s brother Joseph Hodgetts was living. Sadly, Martha died just three weeks after arriving in Canada. She passed away on 6 May 1913 at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Kenora, at age 25, suffering from double pneumonia. She is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

The war started in August 1914 and Thomas enlisted on 24 August 1915 in Port Arthur, Ontario, signing up with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. He was a widower, working as a butcher, and next of kin was his sister-in-law Mrs. Joseph Hodgetts of Kenora. He shaved eight years off his age, passing himself off as 32 when in fact he signed up a week before his 40th birthday. The 52nd Battalion was based in Port Arthur and after three months of training Thomas embarked for England with his unit, leaving from St. John, New Brunswick on 23 November 1915 on the SS California. They spent a couple of months in England before being sent to France on 20 February 1916. The men disembarked at Le Havre and spent their first night there in tents in a snowstorm. They were moved by train to Belgium the next day and on 23 February the 52nd Battalion became part of the newly-formed 9th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Canadian Division.

In the first week of March the men went into the trenches for training and the unit suffered its first combat fatality on the night of 11-12 March. Over the next 2-1/2 years the battalion took part in all the major Canadian battles including the Battle of Mount Sorrel (2-13 June 1916), the Somme Offensive in the fall of 1916 and Vimy Ridge (9-14 April 1917). After 18 months as a front line soldier Thomas was sent to a rest camp for two weeks in August 1917, and the following month he was given ten days leave in the UK. He rejoined his unit as they were training for the Battle of Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917). Following the assault on Passchendaele the battalion moved back into France and in January 1918 Thomas was given another ten-day leave in the UK. He ended up being gone for a month as he was put into quarantine while he was there.

In the summer of 1918 the Canadians were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and in early August they were moved to the area of Amiens in France. The Battle of Amiens would be one of their most remarkable victories and the beginning of the end of the war. The operation started early in the morning on 8 August and included British and French infantry but it was the Australians and Canadians who spearheaded the assault. The battalions attacked in waves supported by artillery, tanks and cavalry. By the end of the day the Canadian Corps had advanced 13 km and taken all of their objectives except one. The battle lasted until 11 August but Thomas fell on the morning of the first day, killed by a German artillery shell.

From the War Diary of the 52nd Battalion, 8 August 1918, Hourges: Very foggy in the early morning .  .  . Zero hour was at 4:20 A.M. and very soon after, the Battalion commenced to move forward through a very heavy enemy barrage.

From the Circumstances of Death record for Thomas: While in the jumping off trench at Hourges Orchard on the morning of August 8th, 1918, he was instantly killed by concussion caused by the explosion of an enemy shell.

Thomas is buried in Hourges Orchard Cemetery in the village of Domart-sur-la-Luce, southeast of Amiens. There are 120 Canadians buried in the cemetery, most of them soldiers of the 3rd Division who died on 8 August 1918, including several other men from Kenora. Thomas is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial and on page 451 of Canada’s First World War Book of Remembrance. The book is displayed in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

By Becky Johnson

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