Friday, 12 October 2018

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: George Bowie of Winnipeg

© 2018, Christian Cassidy

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts follow this link.

Top: Nov 6, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune.
Bottom: Military file

George Bowie's story is unusual in that he enlisted twice to serve in World War One.

Just 15-years-old when the war began, Bowie had served with the Cameron Highlander cadets as a drummer boy. Drummers were important part of a unit. They not only kept time for marching, but also acted as a messenger, helped with the horses and did other minor jobs for the men.

Drummers often followed their units through basic training and stayed behind when they were shipped out of the province on their journey overseas. This is the case with Bowie.

In some cases, though, they did proceed on to Halifax or to England. Even if their unit did not bring their drummer on to France and the front lines these boys found themselves with military training in a community where recruiters were desperately seeking men. By lying on their attestation papers they could simply sign up with another unit.

It was Canada's way of allowing child soldiers to fight in the war. (See this book and my post about Arthur Taylor, another local child soldier.

Vox Wesleyana, January 1913

George Bowie was born in March 1899 in Nairn, Scotland. His family, which included father, George Sr., mother, Margaret, and at least two siblings, came to Winnipeg and eventually settled at 502 Craig Street. His father ran the Scotch Boot Repair store on Portage Avenue near Colony Street.

At age 16, Bowie got a job as in the shipping department of the Christie Grant mail order house that at the time appears to have operated in part of the Fairchild / John Deere Building at 110 Princess Street.

Bowie first enlisted in December 1915 at age of 16 years and 9 months. He was discharged in mid-April 1916 for being underage.

Ten days later, at the age of 17 years and 1 month, he enlisted in St. Vital, presumably at the U of M, with the 196th Battalion. This was nicknamed the "Western Universities Battalion" as it was made up mostly of students from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. (It does not appear that Bowie was yet attending university.)

Bowie was sent to England in November 1916 and assigned to the Young Soldiers Battalion at Camp Bramshott for training and then to the Cameron Highlanders' 43rd Battalion for active service.

26th General Hospital, (Source: British Red Cross)

On October 1, 1918, Bowie received gunshot wounds to the leg and was brought to the 26th General Hospital in Etaples, France. His leg was amputated but he eventually died of his wounds on November 2, 1918. He was 19-years-old.

Bowie is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery.

Attestation Papers and Military Service File

Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Great War Project entry

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