Roger Albert Rowell
Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
Roger Albert Rowell was born on May 20, 1915 in Minesing, a small village near Barrie, Ontario. His parents, James Henry “Harry” Rowell (1885- 1964), a widower and farmer in Vespra Township, and Pearl Priest Rowell (1895-1978) were married in Barrie on November 12, 1913. He had two brothers Eric and Keith and three sisters Florence, Beatrice and Agnes. The family attended the United Church of Canada.
He moved south to Toronto, Ontario. After attending high school for two years, Roger Rowell worked as a truck driver and mechanic for King Paving Company from 1934 to 1937.
He worked as a salesman for G.S. Hubbard Soap Company from 1937 to 1941.
He enlisted in the Canadian army on January 24, 1942 in Toronto, Ontario. His personnel report stated that he signed up for the army because “most of his friends joined up.” He was single.
His basic training was completed in Toronto. His medical records showed that he stood five foot eight inches and weighed 147 pounds. He had hazel eyes and brown hair. He enjoyed skating; fishing in both fly and bait forms and playing right field in baseball.
Private Rowell served as a storeman in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps attached to the 2nd Ordnance Field Park unit. He was sent overseas and disembarked on May 3, 1942 in the United Kingdom. He was posted in Northwest Europe serving from April 17 to October 11 of 1945 in the Netherlands and Germany. After the war ended, he was assigned to the 1st Canadian Ordnance Demobilization Depot in his trade of storeman.
In the early hours of October 11, 1945, tragedy struck when Private Rowell was involved in a road accident and sustained fatal injuries with burns and fractures.
He died in hospital later that evening. He was 30 years old.
A military board of inquiry on October 12 determined that Private R.B. Brunette, along with Private R. A. Rowell, had driven a lorry on an unauthorized trip that resulted in the tragic accident. Normally, Private Brunette drove the vehicle in his duty of carrying rations to the military barracks at Nijmegen from Grave, the Netherlands.
But the two soldiers had gone out for the night to Turnhout, in Belgium, which was a 99-kilometre drive. After dinner and drinks, they headed back to their barracks. The accident occurred at 2:10 a.m. near the barracks at Grave.
“I must have become drowsy because the vehicle left the road and smashed in a tree on the left hand side of the road,” testified Private Brunette at the hearing. “I was thrown clear of the lorry and landed in the field unconscious. When I came to, I saw my truck burning and some civilians getting Private Rowell free.”
Testimony was given by W. van Boekel who lived nearby at 22 Bosschebaan in Velp near Grave. He was awakened by the crash at about 2:15 a.m. and he heard “calls for help” as well as he observed the vehicle on fire. He went to the scene where he pulled Private Rowell “who groaned terribly” from the burning wreckage. He sent his wife away for blankets and a neighbour’s son to notify the Grave barracks. Soon a Dutch Red Cross ambulance arrived at the scene and took the injured men to the hospital in Nijmegen.
The board of inquiry decided that Private Brunette, who recovered from serious injuries in hospital, was guilty of improper conduct and sentenced to six months of detention.
Private Rowell was buried in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, grave references XV. H. 16.
His headstone bears a cross image without an inscription.
Private Roger Rowell was awarded the France-Germany Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal, and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Clasp.
Biography: Jill McDuff, student from All Saints H.S., Kanata, Canada for Faces to Graves.
Biography made available for Faces to Graves courtesy of Vanessa Kirtz, All Saints H.S.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- Library and Archives Canada
- Canadian Veterans Affairs Virtual War Memorial
- Pictures provided by Roger’s nephew Terry Roger Rowell