Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 20, 1882
Place of BirthThurlow, Hastings, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. William Gowsell, mother, Foxboro, Ontario
Trade / CallingCPR Conductor
Service Details
Regimental Number216929
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Regiment, CMR
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Mounted Rifles
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentSuite 6, Windermere Apts, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentApril 12, 1916
Age at Enlistment34
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 11, 1953
Age at Death71
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotAC 52E-40-2

Gowsell, Walter

Walter Gowsell was born in southern Ontario in a farming area just north of Belleville. Although he gave his date of birth as 23 July 1882 in Foxboro on his attestation papers, his  Ontario birth registration gives the date as 20 May 1882 in the nearby community of  Thurlow, likely  written as  the township instead  of the actual residence. Farmers, his parents were William and Mary Ann (Carter) Gowsell. Known children born to the family were James (abt 1870), Adelia (1875), Eva (1877), Joseph (1879), Walter, Helena (1884), and John (1891). Birth registrations listed either Foxboro or Thurlow as place of residence at time of births.

According to his obituary, Walter moved west to the Kenora area  around 1905. He signed his attestation papers in Winnipeg on 12 April 1916, giving  a Winnipeg address as his place of residence and his occupation as a conductor for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He  listed his mother, Mrs William Gowsell in Foxboro as his next of kin, and Active Militia as the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers. As a Private with the 100th Battalion Walter embarked from Halifax on the 18th of September aboard the SS Olympic.

On the 30 November 1916, Walter was transferred to the 1st Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles, arriving at the unit in France for duty on the 23rd of December.  In May of 1917  Walter was first admitted to the No 2 Australian General Hospital in Wimereux, suffering from myalgia and then transferred to the Edinburgh War Hospital. Over the course of the spring and summer of 1917 Walter was to spend time at a number of hospitals in the UK. In addition to the myalgia, he was later diagnosed with trench fever, a disease transmitted by body lice, very common in the trenches.  Symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, pain on moving the eyeballs, and soreness  of the muscles of the legs and back. Admitted to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Bromley in late July, upon discharge in early August he was readmitted for an injury to his foot and was to spend time there as well as at a couple of other hospitals for treatment. By October Walter had been transferred to the Westcliffe Canadian Eye and Ear Hospital at Folkestone, suffering from tonsillitis that was causing some deafness. Surgery was performed to remove his tonsils. Upon discharge in later October, Walter was transferred through a series of battalions before eventually rejoining the CMR in September of 1918. He had been awarded a Good Conduct Badge in mid April. In February of 1919 Walter returned to England and embarked from Southampton aboard the SS Olympic on the 17th of March on his way back to Canada.

After the war Walter was to make Kenora his home and resumed working for the Canadian Pacific Railway. On the 1921 Canada census he was found lodging at the Frank Walton house on 1st Street North along with a number of other conductors for the CPR. He would later be told that his position on the Canadian Pacific Railway as a Passenger Conductor would change to Freight Conductor because of his deafness. On 22 January 1925, in Winnipeg, Walter married Ida Cook, daughter of Robert and Phoebe (Beal) Cook. Ida had been born in Elora, Ontario and by the 1921 Canada census had moved to Kenora where she was working as a milliner and lodging at the Myer Harris house on 3rd Street North. Ida would later have a Milliner shop on Main Street in Kenora and it was said that Walter was visiting  her at the shop one day when he disappeared, Ida finding him downstairs in the shop trying hats on a group of ladies in from one of the reserves. Walter and Ida had a house built for them at 202 Third Street North by Bergman and Nelson of Kenora where they lived and raised their two sons, Robert and Edward.

In 1939 Walter purchased property at Trout Lake on the Minaki Highway where he and his family spent every summer thereafter. He loved to fish and hunt. After suffering a stroke, Walter and Ida moved to 711 Second Street South. Walter was a member of Knox United Church, the Pequonga Lodge, and the AF & AM of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen.

Predeceased by his father William in 1916 and his mother Mary Ann in 1935, both interred in Foxboro, Walter died on 11 May 1953 in the Kenora General Hospital.  His Veteran Death Card listed his wife Ida M Gowsell of Kenora as his next of kin.  Ida later married Troy Blair and after a brief illness she died in 1985. She was survived by sons Robert and Edward and their spouses as well as four grandchildren. Walter and Ida are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

by Judy Stockham and Walter’s family

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family photos courtesy of the Gowsell family

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