Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 14, 1890
Place of BirthArbroath, Forfarshire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. May Shaw Brown (wife), Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland
Trade / CallingPlumber
Service Details
Regimental Number141483
BattalionNo. 50 Squadron
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentGlasgow, Scotland
Address at EnlistmentSaltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland
Date of EnlistmentApril 8, 1918
Age at Enlistment27
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 12, 1966
Age at Death75
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Brown, James Gowans

Air Mechanic James Gowans Brown was born on 14 December 1890 in Arbroath, Forfarshire, Scotland. He was the oldest son of William Brown and Isabella Gowans. William and Isabella were married in Arbroath in 1887 and they had at least three children: Williamina (1888), James (1890) and John (1892). At the time of the 1901 Scotland census James was living in Arbroath with his mother, who was listed as the head of the household, and his brother and sister.

James was married in Glasgow on 30 April 1915, at age 24. By then he was a journeyman plumber, like his father. His wife May Shaw Christie was born in Glasgow in 1891, the daughter of William Alexander Christie, a cabinetmaker, and Janet Hood. James and May’s oldest son William was born in Saltcoats, Ayrshire in July 1917. On 1 April 1918 the Royal Air Force was formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. James enlisted in the RAF a week later, on 8 April. His occupation was listed as plumber/coppersmith and next of kin was his wife May in Saltcoats. He was assigned to the Reserve Depot as a Private 2nd Class and he attended a training school for his first three months of service.

On 3 July James was redesignated as Air Mechanic 3rd Class. He was assigned to No. 112 Squadron but a week later he was transferred to No. 50 Squadron. No. 50 provided home defence in southeast England and it was based at several airfields in the county of Kent. James spent the next seven months with the squadron. The Armistice ended hostilities in November 1918 and on 22 February 1919 he was transferred to the RAF reserve. His full discharge came on 30 April 1920.

A year later James immigrated to Canada, arriving on the SS Tunisian on 15 April 1921, his occupation listed as plumber and his destination Winnipeg, Manitoba where he had a friend living. May and 4-year-old William joined him in September 1922, sailing on the SS Cassandra and heading to Winnipeg. A short time later James and his family moved to the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. During his first two years there he worked on the construction of the new paper mill then he started his own business, Brown Plumbing and Heating Company. He and his wife had three more sons, Alexander, James and John. Sadly May died on 15 February 1926, at age 34, when their youngest boy was only a few days old. Her funeral was held on 18 February and she’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

James played soccer with the Kenora Scottish Football Club and later he was a member of the local curling and lawn bowling clubs. He belonged to Pequonga Lodge, Golden Chapter RAM and the Kenora branch of the Canadian Legion. He operated his plumbing and heating business in Kenora for almost forty years, until his retirement in 1962. James passed away in Port Arthur after a long illness on 12 April 1966, at age 75. He was survived by his four sons as well as his brother John in Glasgow. He is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

Brown-James-Gowans-90 Brown-James-Gowans-91 Brown-James-Gowans-92 Brown-James-Gowans-93
Family photos courtesy of Brown public family tree on
James’ grave marker was installed in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in 2018 by the Last Post Fund.

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