Veteran Stories:
Owen Rowe

Army

  • Owen Rowe, pictured here in his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform in 1945. Rowe served in both the Air Force and the Army.

    Owen Rowe
  • The first reunion, at Montreal, of West Indian WWII veterans, hosted by Mr. Owen Rowe -- Eastern Caribbean Commissioner for Canada, April 24, 1964.

    Owen Rowe
  • Author Pat Burns (seated) autographs a copy of her book "They Where So Young" for Owen Rowe (standing). Rowe is profiled on pages 21-27 of the book.

    Owen Rowe
  • Mr. Owen Rowe in Nanaimo, 1943

    Owen Rowe
  • Owen Rowe, former Royal Canadian Air Force Flying Officer, lays a wreath at the Air National War Memorial in Ottawa in Remembrance Day 2000 in tribute to citizens of the West Indies who left home to enlist in the Canadian military.

    Owen Rowe
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"I would like to salute the war being over. I'm involved now, in what I call winning the peace""

Transcript

My name is Owen Rowe and I hail from Barbados in the West Indies, or the Caribbean. Now during Word War II, the German U-boats were in our sea lanes in the Caribbean, sinking many of the vessels there. Their strategy, of course, was that if they can sink all the ships that supplied the Allies with food and war material that they would bring the Allies to their knees. So we felt that, to do our part, we'd go and have our training abroad. Now, normally we would have gone to England or Britain, as it was then called... The Mother Country. But then the opportunity came for us to get to Canada. I left Barbados on May the 14th, 1942. Anyway, we landed in New York Harbour. And there we saw the Statue of Liberty. And as we looked at this tremendous spectacle, it occurred to me that is what you are fighting for. You are fighting for liberty and you're willing to give to your lives for freedom throughout the entire world. So we, then, took the train to Montreal, and we then proceeded to enlist formally in the army. We took our basic training in a place called Huntington, Quebec. And there we met the McCoys who befriended me. Margaret McCoy and her husband invited myself and other soldiers to their home knowing that we'll be lonely. And we took a liking for each other and right until this day, the McCoys and I are still in touch with each other. Anyway, I have trained at Kingston as a wireless operator. And then, I had my embarkation leave to go overseas. And, lo and behold, the day when they were calling out the role call for us to go, my name was not called. And I began to panic. I said, "What's happened?" And they said, "We are not sure. You were, indeed, to go over but we don't what the reason is. We can't keep back all of these men just for you." And I cried. I just broke down. It was too much emotion for me. All the men that I'd trained with and... it was just all the spirit was let out of me. Anyway, they went off and then, I was going overseas again, and they said -I was jinxed I think- they said, "All you men who are in Block 28, go back. You'll be confined to barracks for 30 days because one of your men has scarlet fever." So I did not get over. After, I found that I would not be getting overseas, I asked to be transferred to the air force. The army told me, "If you pass the air force exam, sure, we'll let you go." So, I went and got in the air force and did pretty well. And I wound up being the rank of Flying Officer. Not as a pilot but, I was a... a wireless operator and air gunner. And my first rank was Pilot Officer. Then I was promoted to Flying Officer. When my Air Force training was completed, and they said, "Well you guys can kiss goodbye the idea of getting overseas because the Americans have come out with the Atomic bomb. The war will be over in no time. There's no point in you people going overseas." So, there was my last chance to go. And, it just didn't happen. But, nevertheless, I was in both the army and the air force. We all did our duty and, one should never get the feeling that unless you went overseas on the battlefield, that you failed to do your duty. Because winning the war was a team effort, which involved those who remained at home to train other people. The nurses... I would like to salute the war being over. I'm involved now, what I call "winning the peace". And that means that we must so live as to obviate the kinds of situations that breed hatred and wars.
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