Lance Sergeant Andrew Grey Cowie joined the 152nd (Saskatchewan) Battalion in May 1916, at age 22. After six months of training he was drafted to a front line unit and sent to France. He died of wounds in August 1917.
Andrew was the son of Andrew Grey Cowie Sr. and Annie Gallagher of Carnduff, Saskatchewan. Andrew Sr. was born in Hastings, Ontario to Scottish parents and Annie was from Liverpool, England. They were married in 1890 in the small town of Rat Portage in northwestern Ontario. Andrew and Annie had seven children, five sons all born in the Rat Portage area (William, Andrew, John James, Allen and Robert), and two daughters (Meada and Lillian). Andrew Jr., their second son, was born on 28 July 1893 and he spent his early childhood years in Rat Portage (later called Kenora). Around 1905 his family moved west and took up farming near Carnduff, Saskatchewan. The youngest child Lillian was born there in 1909.
Andrew enlisted in Carnduff on 20 May 1916, at age 22, joining the 152nd (Saskatchewan) Battalion. He said he had five years experience in the 20th Border Horse, a militia unit that was based in Pipestone, Manitoba, about 80 km away. His medical exam tells us he was a big lad, 5'11" and 165 lb. with blue eyes and fair hair. After training in Canada for a few months he left for the UK with his battalion on 3 October 1916, embarking from Halifax on the SS Missanabie. In England the 152nd was absorbed into the 32nd Reserve Battalion. Just a month later Andrew was sent to France and transferred to a new unit, the 5th (Saskatchewan) Battalion. He arrived at the Canadian Base Depot on 28 November 1916 and joined the 5th Battalion in the field in early December in a draft of 400 reinforcements. The battalion was known as the Western Canadian Cavalry but they were a dismounted infantry unit in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Canadian Division.
That fall all four Canadian divisions had been at the Somme Offensive where they suffered 24,000 casualties in less than three months. From the Somme they moved north to the area between Lens and Arras, opposite Vimy, and the 5th Battalion was based there when Andrew joined them. Over the winter the Canadian units received reinforcements to bring them back up to strength. The men trained, provided work parties, carried out patrols and raids and had regular rotations in the front line. In April 1917 the Canadian Corps took part in the assault on Vimy Ridge, which started on the morning of 9 April in a sleet and snow storm. On the first day of the battle the 5th Battalion suffered about 360 casualties out of a strength of 820 men (over 40%). On 11 April Andrew was promoted to Lance Sergeant and his unit was relieved from the front line on 15 April. After a two week break they took part in the Battle of Arleux (28-29 April), suffering another 250 casualties over two days.
The 5th Battalion moved several times between May and July 1917 and the men trained and and worked on repairs to trenches and dugouts. On 15 July they went into the front line near Loos for a five day rotation. After a period of rest they were sent back in again on the night of 1-2 August, arriving at 2:30 am. The weather was cool and rainy and the trenches were very muddy and water-logged. On 3 August a work party of 50 men was organized to improve the drainage and another 50 men were assigned to carrying artillery shells. Andrew was seriously wounded that day, 3 August, and he died later the same day after being evacuated to No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station.
From Andrew's Circumstances of Death record: Died of Wounds (Gunshot Wounds Thighs, Left Fractured) at No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station.
From the War Diary of the 5th Battalion, 6 August 1917: Battalion moved into Braquemont this morning. The bodies of Capt. Dale. Sgt. Cowie. Pte Dycker were interred in the Cemetery at Mazengarbe at 11.00 a.m. "C" Company supplied the firing party and the remainder paraded to the Cemetery.
Andrew is buried in Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery Extension in the village of Mazingarbe, a few miles northwest of Lens. He is commemorated on a memorial marker in Carnduff Cemetery and on the Saskatchewan First World War Memorial in Regina.
His younger brothers John James and Allen Houston also enlisted, James with the 212th Battalion and Allen with the RNWMP draft. They both survived the war and returned to Canada in 1919.
Andrew's mother died in Carnduff in January 1947. She was predeceased by two other sons, Robert (1937) and William (1940), as well as her husband Andrew Sr. (1945). Allen died in 1962 and Meada (Mrs. William Baglole) in 1975. They are all buried in Carnduff Cemetery.
By Kenora Great War Project