Faces behind the Poppy

On Remembrance Day we wear a Poppy.  The poppy has become a familiar emblem of this day because of the poem written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCraeIn Flanders Fields”.  It was there, in Flanders Fields, which these poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I.  Their red colour is an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

It’s because of our veterans that we get to celebrate The Brighter Side of life.  As today we remember the members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.  And those who survived to tell their stories.  Plus today we thank those men and women who still serve in the Armed forces. 

To think that my own grandfather scarified his life and his family so that we can have the freedom we have today.  His name was James Henry Rowsell.  His story began February 4, 1912 in Taunton England.  As a young boy he and his mother immigrated via boat to Canada.  They landed in Newfoundland in search of his own father who went missing after suffering amnesia.  His own father was never found, but my grandfather grew up Canadian, living the Canadian dream. 

As a young man he made his way across this country to make roots in Vernon BC.  Where he married Rita Kraayeveld.  Not long after, he gave up his own life and career and enlisted with the Canadian Armed Forces 1940-1945. 

Today my father proudly displays the medals he achieved, 1939-1945 Star, Italian Star, France and Germany Star, Defense Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal, and one my grandmother received from the Queen after his passing in 1952.  But there has always been a wonder in my mind as to what he went through. What he saw and what he was thinking.

Thanks to the power of the internet and Google.  I believe I have found his story.  My grandfather was part of the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment - Rank Corporal - later known as the BC Dragoons Tank Corp.  I was so thrilled to have found this information as they have pictures where I can see where he was and what he was doing.  Please find the story here.  (As the pictures are restricted and I couldn’t copy them to show you.)  Thank you to the Okanagan Military Museum as well for their hard work in putting this information together.

Speaking to my father, who was only 3 when his father passed away, he has many stories that he remembers his mother telling him.  One was that he knew his father would be safe while serving in the war. There was a kind woman who gave my grandfather a rosary to keep him safe, and she often cooked meals for the men.  To her, whoever she was, I say thank you for your kindness and warm heart to watch over these men as they were in Holland.  Another story my grandmother shared was how my grandfather helped his fellow tank members who had burn wounds.  He would bathe them in salt water to help with their burn wounds.  Even though I never met my grandfather, I feel the kindness in his heart. 

There’s one thing I’m certain, that if my grandfather were with us today, he would be very proud of the boys he had, and the grandchildren that remember him today. 

Thank you James H. Rowsell.  Thank you to all the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.  And a special thank you to the men and women who still serve today.
Christina Rowsell

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