Eric Sutherland Fowlds (1893-1925) was the youngest of three siblings who served during the First World War. His sister Helen and brother Donald also served. Eric Fowlds was a civil engineer who had already served two years in the militia by the time he enlisted at Valcartier, Quebec, on September 23, 1914, making him amongst the earliest recruits to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He served on the Western Front for ten months before being sent, in November 1915, to the Monks Horton Canadian Convalescent Hospital in Kent, England, to be treated for acute bronchitis and "neurasthenia," a term once used for a nervous disorder involving a range of symptoms, including weakness, fatigue, anxiety and heart palpitations. It is possible that his condition was related directly to the trauma of battle—or what became known in the First World War as shell shock. After his convalescence, he occupied administrative posts in England, and attained the rank of temporary lieutenant in 1918. He arrived back on home soil in Halifax on March 22, 1919, by which time he had served throughout virtually the entire war. He died in 1925 at the age of 32.
Fowlds' sister, Helen Lander Fowlds, was a nursing sister whose extensive wartime correspondence has been digitized by Trent University. The three Fowlds siblings tried to keep track of one another's whereabouts and wellbeing during their service in Europe through letters and postcards, while Helen wrote dozens of letters to her parents back home in Canada. In several letters written near the end of 1918, Helen tries to console her parents over the death of her brother Donald, the middle Fowlds sibling, who was killed in action.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: June 9, 1893 (Hastings, Ontario)
Date of Attestation: September 23, 1914
Age at Enlistment: 21 years, 3 months
Presently Engaged with Active Militia: Yes
Prior Military Service: Yes – 2 years with the 2nd Field Company of Canadian Engineers, 1909-11
Height: 5 feet, 11 inches
Weight: 160 pounds
Description: Fresh complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair. Presbyterian. Vaccination scar left arm, scar over right eye, scar first finger left hand.
Home Address: Not indicated
Trade: Civil Engineer
Next of Kin: Father, Frederick William Fowlds, living in Hastings, Ontario
Theatre of War: England and France
Casualties / Medical History
- November 29, 1915 – He is struck off strength and hospitalized for acute bronchitis and "neurasthenia." (Page 29)
- December 1, 1916 – He is examined for bronchitis at Hastings and declared fit for duty. A note provides a brief history: "France 11 months. He was sent from France Nov. 1915 with a cough + he was run down. Since then he has been acting as Secretary at Convalescent Hospital Lutton House. There is no sign of bronchitis at present." (Page 15)
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- 1914 – A note in red ink indicates that he sailed from Valcartier, Quebec, on the SS Zealand on October 4, 1914. (Page 56)
- December 4, 1917 – He is transferred from the 2nd Field Company, Canadian Engineers Regiment, to the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion. (Page 7)
- January 14, 1918 – He attends the Cadet Course at the Regimental Depot at Seaford, England. (Page 25)
- He is granted a promotion based on his qualification as a surveyor. (Page 27)
- Next of kin is his father, but his file states that the military should "also notify Nursing Sister H.L. Fowlds c/o Matron McDonald 36 Victoria St, London S.W." (Page 37)
- March 1920 – His Certificate of Service states that he enlisted as a sapper (or combat engineer) in the 2nd Field Company of the CEF on September 23, 1914, and was commissioned in the British Columbia Regiment on August 6, 1918. It further states that was released from service, due to the general demobilization of the army, on March 28, 1919. (Page 17)
- July 10, 1920 – There is a copy of a letter that was sent to him after the war along with his will. (Page 21)
- He died on July 14, 1925. (Page 1)
The London Gazette
Military Medals Honours and Awards
At age 17, Eric Sutherland Fowlds is living in Hastings, Ontario, with his family. His father, Frederick (54), is listed as an insurance agent. The family is listed as Canadian with a Scottish background, and Presbyterian. Eric's older sister Helen (22) also lives at home, as does his older brother Donald (19). (54), is listed as an insurance agent. The family is listed as Canadian with a Scottish background, and Presbyterian. Eric's older sister Helen (22) also lives at home, as does his older brother Donald (19). His father's two sisters, Theresa Hogg (57) and Margaret Fowlds (45), also live in the home.