Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 31, 1886
Place of BirthLondon
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Emma Rowbottom (wife), 334 Third St. North, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTrainman/Brakeman
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439021
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion31st Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentDecember 18, 1914
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 20, 1919
Age at Death33
Buried AtBrookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, England
PlotIII. F. 13.

Rowbottom, Charles Frederick

Private Charles ‘Ted’ Rowbottom was living in Kenora, Ontario with his wife and two young children when the war started. He enlisted four months later and served overseas until July 1916, when he was wounded for the second time. His health deteriorated over the next few years and he died in England in July 1919.

Charles was the son of Edward Ernest Rowbottom and Jane Lucy Jennings of Islington, London, England. Edward and Jane were both born in London and they were married in Islington in 1883. Edward worked as a cab man and cab driver groom. They had eight children and Charles, the second oldest, was born in May 1886. Charles worked as a groom like his father and on 11 April 1909 he married Emma Jarvis at St. Andrew’s Church in Islington. The couple immigrated to Canada in April 1910, arriving in Halifax on the SS Canada and going to Kenora, Ontario. Emma’s brother Arthur Jarvis had emigrated a few years earlier and he was living in Kenora with his wife and children. At the time of the 1911 census the Rowbottoms were living on Fourth St. North and Charles was working for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Their first two children were born in Kenora, Alexander Edward in 1910 and Edna May in 1912.

Charles enlisted in Kenora in December 1914, four months after the war started, when local volunteers were being recruited for a third overseas contingent. The men were briefly attached to the 44th Battalion but in mid-March 1915 the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion was organized and they were transferred to the new unit. The 52nd was based in Port Arthur and Charles was sent there in June 1915 along with the rest of the Kenora volunteers. While they were training the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium. Recruits were needed to replace casualties in the front line units and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. Charles was sent to England with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft in September 1915, one of 250 men from the 52nd Battalion. A few weeks later his wife and children moved back to London, England and their youngest daughter Irene was born there later that year.

After several more months of training the recruits from the 2nd Reinforcing Draft were assigned to new units. Charles was assigned to the 31st (Alberta) Battalion and he joined them in Belgium in March 1916. That spring the Canadian Divisions were in the Ypres Salient, holding the front line between Hooge and St. Eloi. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with a bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. The 31st Battalion went into the front line on 5 June, to relieve units near the village of Hooge. On 6 June the Germans blew up more mines, this time near Hooge, and their infantry attacked again. The advance was stopped by heavy rifle fire from the 31st and 28th Battalions and the Germans dug in. Charles was wounded during the fighting the following day, 7 June. From the War Diary of the 31st Battalion: List of Casualties – 6th, 7th and 8th June 1916, Wounded 7-6-16 439021 Pte. C.F. Rowbottom, ‘A’ Coy.

Charles recovered from his injuries and rejoined his unit at the end of June. On the night of 4 July his battalion moved into the front lines at ‘the Bluff’ near St. Eloi. There had been a heavy thunderstorm during the day and the men were exhausted after marching in on very muddy roads. The next day, 5 July, the battalion suffered six casualties, one officer killed by a sniper and five other men wounded. One of them was Charles, who suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder early that morning. Private Donald Fraser, a fellow soldier in the 31st, said that Charles was wounded at a Listening Post, a dangerous position in front of the trenches, out in No Man’s Land. Charles was evacuated to a hospital and while recovering from his injury he became very ill, possibly suffering a stroke. He spent the next nine months in hospitals and convalescent homes in England. In April 1917 he was sent back to Canada on the hospital ship Letitia and admitted to the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital in Tuxedo Park, Winnipeg. He was discharged from the army on 12 June 1918, ‘being medically unfit for further war service.’

Emma and the children had also returned to Canada in April 1917. Once Charles was out of the hospital he wanted to move back to London to be near relatives and they returned to England in June 1919. They were settling in and planning to buy a home when Charles passed away suddenly on 20 July, suffering a stroke while at his sister-in-law’s home in Islington, London. He was 33 years old. Charles was given a military funeral and buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the UK. The service was conducted by Reverend Lorymer, a minister from Kenora who was with the Canadian Chaplain Service. Charles is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial and the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral Memorial plaque.

Emma’s brother Arthur Jarvis enlisted in the army a week after Charles and he was wounded but survived the war. In 1923 Emma returned to Kenora with the children and two years later she married Willard John Derry, who was also a veteran of the First World War. Emma (1890-1953) and Willard (1890-1957) are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Charles and Emma’s daughter Irene (Mrs. Jack Breeze) (1915-1957) is also buried there.   Edna May (Mrs. Jack Scott) passed away in Winnipeg in 2000 and Alexander died in Belleville, Ontario in 2002.

By Becky Johnson

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