Lt Elbert Watson Dowd, MiD, 1st Fd Sqn

Lt Elbert Dowd, MiD
Clipping with Spr George Harrison interview notes
Clipping with Spr George Harrison interview notes

Elbert Watson Dowd or "Ebby" as his family liked to call him, grew up in Ottawa, ON. He had two brothers and attended Glebe Secondary School. He graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering. During his time at Queen’s he worked for the Dominion Bridge Company and another he worked for Algoma Steel Corporation during the summers.  He also played football and was an outstanding athlete. 

Ebby was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Engineers on 3 March 1941.  In 1942, he attended the School of Physical Training then he attended field engineering and demolitions courses in Petawawa. Also in 1942, he attended a bomb disposal course and completed training at an assault school. He was sent overseas to Italy in 1943 and was assigned to the 1st Field Squadron in the 5th Canadian Armoured Division as the Squadron's senior reconnaissance officer.

On the morning of 29 August, forward elements of the First Canadian Corps had advanced from the Metauro River crossing to positions overlooking the main Gothic Line Defences along the Foglia River. Patrols were out, including engineer reconnaissance. Lt Dowd and his driver/operator, Spr George Harrison, were conducting a daylight reconnaissance on Dowd’s own initiative for the Foglia River crossing.  The task of reconnaissance officers was to find the way forward, and he was apparently working in his own initiative like so many other RCE officers of the day. Leading attacking troops through German defences made the old adage “Follow the Sapper” that much more appropriate.

On this day, Dowd and Harrison parked their Otter scout car and proceeded down the slope and across the river on foot, making note of minefields, ditches and possible crossing spots.  Returning from the far side of the river, they met up with a patrol from the Cape Breton Highlanders, the unit they were supporting, and showed them the crossing site. Suddenly, they heard a German voice shouting at them. The German was a sniper who had taken some time off to pick grapes and mistook the Canadians for his mates. He was one of many prisoners captured by RCE reconnaissance parties in Italy. 

By the morning of 31 August, after heavy bombardment, the Canadian infantry was across the Foglia and the 1st Field Squadron was busy clearing mines and maintaining the crossings they had built. Lt Dowd and Spr Harrison were almost two miles in front of the Canadian line conducting a reconnaissance of the road to Tombo di Pesaro.  A common approach to finding mines in those days was to drive with two wheels in the ditch and two in the road, hoping to see the mines before driving over them. over them.  Ebby was standing tall in his turret observing the terrain ahead of the scout car.  The Germans, quiet until that point began shelling the road and they hit a mine.  Three pieces of shrapnel hit the scout car and one hit Ebby.  He was rushed to an aid station but died from his wounds later. In an interview with the Canadian Press, Spr George Harrison described Ebby as a very brave officer.  

Lt Elbert “Ebby” Walton Dowd was awarded a Mention in Dispatches (Posthumously) for his actions on the Gothic Line.  He is buried in Montecchio Commonwealth War Cemetery. He was 28 years old.

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