Friday, June 11, 2010

Harry William Rowlands

Harry William Rowlands #402392 was born 10 June, 1892 in Birmingham, England. Unfortunately I do not yet have the date when he died. Originally he enlisted in the 34th. Battalion, and then sent to the 1st. Battalion as a reinforcement. Harry Rowlands ran a successful flower shop in London for many years. The interview with Harry Rowlands took place on 27 November, 1974. The cassette tapes of the interview are in the London Room, London Public Library.

“Plugstreet Woods was a noted place. We got the name Plugstreet from the fact that the name of the little town was Ploegsteert which is Flemish and it became Plugstreet to us.

We were at Plugstreet for quite some time- about two or three months- in and out of the trenches. We would put in six or eight days in the trenches and then we would move out to Brigade Reserve, a matter of not more than a couple of miles behind the front lines for a few days. That is where the brigade offices were. You would then go back into the trenches for another six of eight days and then you would be taken out again and sent back to divisional reserve. That was about five or six miles to the rear. You might possibly be able to get a bath there of some sort. There were no tents or huts even there.”

“While we were at Ploegsteert we got word that we were going to parade as close to the trenches as we could, which meant about five miles because Lord Kitchener was coming through. He had been making a survey of the front and they had the troops that were out of the trenches on their resting period lined up for inspection up along a highway as far as you could see. There was a cluster of generals waiting for Kitchener to come down into their section and amongst them was our firebrand, Sam Hughes. (1) He was a firebrand. He got into an argument with this Australian. Sam Hughes, as usual, was boasting that the Canadian troops were the best in the world and the Australian thought his were just as good and to prove it he would show him and started to take off his coat and put up his fists- all this in front of thousands of men. Now this was something that we watched. He was a real firebrand. (2)(3)”

(1) Sir Sam Hughes was Minister of Militia at that time. He was a real character. The center of a whirlwind of motion decisions were often made off the cuff resulting in a great deal of confusion. The English thought that he was mad; however, he did keep them from using  Canadian troops as reinforcements for battered English Battalions.
(2) by 1917-1918 the Canadians and the Australians were certainly the cockiest troops on the Western
Front. If they were bivouacked near each other the British took to putting British troops between them.
(3) Berlin, Ontario was renamed Kitchener after Lord Kitchener.

Photo #1: Attestation Papers, Library and Archives Canada.
Photo #2: King George, Queen Mary and Lord Kitchener inspect Canadian troops on the Salisbury  Plain, 1914. These troops are part of the First Contingent which included the 1st. Battalion. Library and Archives Canada.

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