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Rowe, Owen De Vere

ROWE, Owen De Vere. SWW Veteran & Caribbean Diplomat.

"It's important for Canadians to know that what we did is a part of Canadian history. It's important that it be acknowledged that we came up here and we were part of the Canadian forces." -West Indian Second World War veteran Owen Rowe.

-By daughter Kathy Grant.

My father Owen Rowe was a man of many facets - an athlete, school teacher, soldier, poet, army officer, journalist, student program director, diplomat, Head of Social Development at The Prison for Women in Kingston, Musician and Community Contact newspaper writer. He was born on the island of Barbados on May 14th, 1922. My father died in Montreal on April 16th, 2005 and is buried in the Military Field of Honour in Pointe Claire, Quebec.

His father “Horace” was a high school headmaster and his mother “Alexandrina” stayed home to raise the family of nine children. When the war broke out, my father was eager to fight but his mother thought he was too young. On his 20th birthday, May 14th, 1942 he left his home in Barbados and came north to Canada to train in the armed forces. He arrived in Montreal on May 21st, 1942.

"We came here because of our patriotism. Many of us worshiped the Crown and wanted to help," my father said. He joined the war effort to “fight for victory.” From 1942-1944, my father served in the Canadian Army, Signal Corps and was stationed at Huntingdon Quebec, Kingston, Ontario, and Nanaimo BC. On February 1st, 1944 my father joined the Air Force (RCAF) where he attained the commissioned rank of Pilot and Flying Officer. He served in Edmonton and was discharged in 1946.

After the war my father briefly re-visited Barbados, then returned to reside permanently in Canada, where he built a professional career which included teaching, consular work, Diplomacy and Corrections. My father advocated for greater recognition of the contributions by West Indians to the war effort in Canada. In 1982, he spearheaded the founding of the West Indian World War II Veterans Assn. of Montreal. He wrote articles for several newspapers and participated in radio and TV interviews to document the Canada/Caribbean military connection in WWII. Largely through my father’s efforts, as of November 11th, 2000, a wreath is now laid annually at the Cenotaph at the National War Memorial in Ottawa “in honour of the West Indian WWII Veterans” and as of 2007 in honour of all Black Veterans who served Canada.

In 2002 he received Queen’s Jubilee Medal from MP Marlene Jennings. My father spearheaded the campaign to have a plaque recognizing West Indian Veterans Second World War veterans displayed during the opening year of The National War Museum in Ottawa in 2005. Sadly, my father passed away weeks before witnessing the plaque being installed.

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