Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Stewart, Elbert, Ainslie
England, 1942
Three brothers, my uncles, served in the second world war. Two of them came home. One of them married a beautiful English girl, Patricia, the mother of Carol and Cheryl. A wedding photo shows the couple on their wedding day. One of the attendants at their wedding, Elbert Dowd, standing on the far left, is the brother who never came home.

The following article is a duplication of the news story that was published in the Ottawa Evening Citizen, Thursday, October 5, 1944, written by Doug Howe. With the Canadian Corps on the Adriactic Front.

"Canadians in Italy Recall Gallantry of Late Lt. Elbert W. Dowd, Ottawa

The two engineers said they could talk about Lieut E. W. “Ebby” Dowd for a long time.
He came from Ottawa. He used to play football for Queen’s University while he was getting his degree in engineering. He came overseas as an engineer officer. [After two years in England, he took part in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns.] He came out to Italy with a squadron and became a reconnaissance officer. He was killed September 1, 1944, during a reconnaissance two miles out front of everything else Canadian. That wasn’t the first time “Ebby” Dowd or lots of other Canadian engineer reconnaissance officers had been away out front, but that was the time he got killed doing the same sort of thing he had been doing for months.

Spr. George Harrison of Toronto Was Ebby Dowd’s driver operator in his scout car. He was the man who saw Dowd wounded by a piece of shrapnel and got him back to medical attention a lot faster than it is easy to believe. He had been with Dowd on many of his reconnaissances, like the one he made in daylight over the Foglia River at a time when the Canadians were wondering who and what the Germans had in their Gothic Line positions on the other side. Dowd had made that reconnaissance on his own initiative. There were a lot of things that had to be found out about river crossings and minefields. So Dowd and Harrison parked their scout car and slipped down the slopes leading to the floor of the broad, flat Foglia valley.

“We got across all right,” Harrison said. “We made the reconnaissance and we’re back when we bumped into a patrol of Cape Breton Highlanders, and the infantry outfit we were working with. Dowd turned around and showed them the ford he had found.”

“Everything was quiet at that time, until we heard a German voice calling to us. They had snipers lying around there and this German lad was picking himself some grapes. He thought we were some of his mates. By the time he recovered from his surprise we were escorting him back as a prisoner.”

“The Reconnaissance on which Dowd was killed was one we were making along the road towards Tomba di Pesaro. There were Germans all around the place and he went along as he always did, standing up so that most of his body was outside of the turret. He had his own idea about mined roads. He said if we didn’t hit one, there weren’t any there, and if we did hit one, then we’d know where they were. That’s the way we were going along this time, two wheels on the road, two in the ditch. For some reason the Jerries hadn’t bothered us until this one shell came over."

Three pieces of shrapnel hit the side of the car. The fourth struck Lieut. Elbert Watson Dowd.

In keeping with the day, I just want to add a link to the now famous video "A Pittance of Time." It is worthy of a yearly viewing along with the famous "Flander's Fields."

In Flander's Fields
....by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.

Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep,though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


persephone said...

Thank you Marylou for this touching story of the Dowd brothers. How interesting to see photos of Carol's and Cheryl's dashing father and beautiful English mother and the uncles. So sad that one brother did not return. The newspaper clipping brings the story of his bravery to life again.

Multiply this story by the thousands being told in so many Canadian families about loved ones in both wars. We will never forget!

Cath sent ' A Pittance of Time as well this morning. It is wonderful.

Thank you for including 'In Flanders Fields'...'short days ago we lived , felt dawn, saw sunset glow '. It still causes chills.

Starzz said...

Thank you Marylou,
This is a wonderful tribute to our Uncle Elbert who died for our freedom, and a touching rememberance to our late Uncle Ainslie and my dad Stewart.

One can't help but have tears in our eyes as we read the story of Elbert Dowd as told by Harrison.

Nice of you to remember my lovely mother..an "English war bride" as they were called then..and I a war baby.

"We will remember"

Starzz said...

I was curious as to the reference to Spr. Harrison..not knowing what the Spr. stood for.
I found this on Google..

In the Royal Engineers...

a sapper may perform any of a variety of tasks under combat conditions. Such tasks typically include bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences as well as building, road and airfield construction and repair. In other words, the sapper's tasks now involve facilitating movement of allied forces and impeding movement of enemies.

A new tidbit of knowledge..what fun. I love Google!

persephone said...

Enjoyed your comments and memories Carol. 'An English war Bride'!

Cath's and my mother so wanted to leave school and train as a nurse for WW2. Her mother encouraged her to graduate first and the war finished that summer . Mum described dancing in the streets of Vancouver with huge mobs of ecstatic people when the war ended.

Carol, thanks for the full definition of sapper . I remember the actor playing a 'sapper' in the movie 'English Patient' who dismantled bombs but I did not realize how many other duties they had.

I just heard Vera Lynn singing a medley of 'We'll Meet Again' / 'When the Lights Go On Again' on Cbc radio .

Marylou said...

Wonderful comments...Aunty Patsy B., as my sisters and I called her, (We had another Auntie Pat, brother of Elbert and Stewart)was the most beautiful "war bride" indeed. I have pictures inherited from my grandparents, of the Italian campaigne, taken by Elbert, which I will assemble someday [soon] for a wartime anthology.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for remembering "The Dowd Brothers" and my mother. What a wonderful memory to honour our military today. I recently finished a scrapbook of my father's life - he has been gone almost 10 years now and it was a great opportunity to get to know him again. I think that's why recently I have been reaching out to long lost relatives - YOU!
Thank you for sharing.
Cheryl Patricia

Tessa said...

Lovely, lovely post, Marylou!

I've tagged you with a Kreativ Blogger award, which you can pick up at my blog next time you visit. Cheers!