Sergeant Charles Everton Gowdy
Charles Everton Gowdy (seen front row centre in the photo on the left) was born in a small town near Kingston, Ontario. At a young age his mother died and he and his brother Robert Wellington Gowdy were sent to live with families in the neighbouring area. His childhood from this point on was one of poverty and abuse.
In the summer of 1914 the two brothers were sent to Camp Petawawa to practice as soldiers in the cavalry. When the Great War broke out Robert enlisted first, followed by Charles on January 13, 1916. Both went to Kingston and enlisted with the 146th Battalion. (At a later date Charles was transferred to the 20th Battalion.)
Their first task as enlisted men was to travel north by train to Harrowsmith and stagecoach to Sydenham to recruit other men to join their battalion. In Sydenham they drilled in the townhall and managed to recruit five local men; in Verona they managed to recruit 53 more.
From May to September, 1916 the brothers lived in various training camps, preparing for embarkment overseas. On September 26, 1916 they were transported to Halifax and loaded on troop carriers heading to England. There were six boats, escorted to England by one cruiser and two destroyers. Once in England they were taken by train from Liverpool to Shorncliffe Camp where they were quarantined for fourteen days. After the quarantine was lifted they were moved to Seaforth and Bramshott Camp, then later to Sandling Camp.
Due to Charles being under age he was sent to a special training school to learn more about the drilling of soldiers and the handling of various types of guns. At this training school, they were blindfolded and told to dismantle their guns and then assemble them in a brief time period. This would prove a necessity at the front because of their guns malfunctioning. Charles would later "relieve" a German officer of his luger pistol and marveled at its workmanship. He kept it on his person as much as possible and it would prove beneficial in hand-to-hand combat.
Charles was promoted to Corporal and shipped to the war front in August 1917. He was placed in charge of two Lewis machine gun crews with seven men in each crew. He was the number one gunner on the first crew. Each man carried four panniers plus his own rifle and equipment. These panniers were round magazines for the Lewis gun and each pannier had 47 rounds of ammunition. They were carried in canvas bags slung over the shoulder.
Charles was introduced to battle very quickly. He participated in the battle of Vimy Ridge where his battalionšs objective was to move three-quarters of a mile beyond a LaFollie farm to the Germans third line of defence. He also participated in battles and raids at Mount St. Aloy, Hill 60, Hill 70, Douia, Arras, The Lille Gate, Hell Fire Corner, Schrapnel Corner, Sanctuary Woods, Battle of the Somme, Elevation Mount Sorrel, Cambrai, Amiens, Valenciennes, The Hindenburg Line, and Mons. Other places he was stationed include LaTargette, Neuville St. Vaast and Villers au Bois. He had close calls during these battles -- during one a bullet penetrated the casing of his Lewis machine gus as he held it. However, the most devastating experience for Charles was watching his beloved brother Robert die after being gassed during a battle at the Hindenburg line.
Charles was on a much needed leave in England when the Armistice was called. He returned to his unit in Mons and began a 200 mile march into Germany where he stayed until the treaty was signed. He arrived back to Kingston, Ontario on May 24th, 1919.
This account was provided by his son, Bob Gowdy.