Private Robert Wellington Gowdy

Robert Wellington Gowdy (seen upper right 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 Charles Everton Gowdy were sent to live with families in the neighbouring area. Both brothers suffered a childhood of poverty and abuse.

In the summer of 1914 Robert and Charles were sent to Camp Petawawa to practice as soldiers in the cavalry. When the Great War broke out Robert enlisted first, followed by Charles. Both went to Kingston and enlisted with the 146th 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 their 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.

Once sent to the front, Robert, now a member of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, participated in the battle of Vimy Ridge. During this battle he was shot in the foot and was sent to Scotland to mend for a period of three or four months.

Robert later returned from his hospitalization in Scotland to participate in a battle at or near the Hindenburg Line. His Company was holding the line in the vicinity of Feuchy when he was gassed, and sent to No. #2 Australian Hospital near Wimereux, just outside of Boulogne, France. Charles Gowdy was at the front fighting when his commanding officer received a telegram from the hospital. Charles was called from the front and given permission to accompany his dying brother. He traveled across Belgium and France and arrived at the hospital complex, which was a number of make shift huts, about eighty feet long and lined on both walls with beds full of wounded soldiers. Robert could barely speak because of his weakening state, and also because of his burnt lungs. Charles could not believe the gruesome colour of his brother's complexion and skin. For twenty-eight days they were able to be together, then one morning, September 28, 1918, Charles arrived at the hospital only to be told Robert had passed away in the night. He was 22 years old at the time of his death.

That same night there had been a German air raid on an allied airdrome just outside Boulogne. The Germans scored a direct hit on a dormitory killing 85 men. These men were buried with Robert that same day. A trench was dug in the cemetery the length of a casket, five caskets were laid side by side and a Salvation Army Chaplain said a few words over these five men and then would move onto the next five. This Chaplain counseling Charles for the next few days for he was a very troubled young man.

Robert Wellington Gowdy is buried in a hospital cemetery called Terlincthun near Boulogne, France. This account was provided by Robert Gowdy's nephew, Bob Gowdy.

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