In Memory of

William Dickinson Greenfield Cowley

Lance Corporal

Service Number 74235

Regiment/Unit: 28th (North-west) Battalion

Citation: N/A

Honors and Awards: N/A

As told by his grand-daughter, Sandra Hughs, April 14, 2002:

Born 4 July 1881 at Gatherums, Louth, Lincolnshire son of William Dickinson Greenfield and Lucy Cowley. Lucy with her second husband John Greenfield and family moved to Yorkshire in the early 1890's. William joined the West Yorkshire Regiment and served in the Boer War where he contracted enteric fever and earned a few shrapnel scars and the King and Queen's South African Medals 1899-1905.

On 3 May 1905 William married Edith Breckin in Leeds, signing his marriage certificate as William Dickinson Greenfield Cowley but the two children of the marriage were registered with the surname Greenfield (my Aunt - Lillian Dickinson Greenfield born in1906 and my Dad - Harry Greenfield born in 1912) .

In 1914-1915 William left his family and "went to Canada". He never returned. My Aunt said she had, when very young, seen a photograph of him and she thought that he was tall and good looking but she didn't know what had happened to the photo and couldn't remember much about him. In my childhood I must admit I had little interest in family history and I had realised that talking about his family was something that my father was loathe to do. By the time I started actively tracing my family tree both my Dad and Aunt were deceased, so no opportunities to ask for further information. All I knew when I started my searching was that my Grandfather was called William Dickinson Greenfield and that he had probably died in the 1950's in Canada.

By a touch of serendipity, another researcher who lives in Canada and who I had "talked to" via email about my missing grandfather was waiting at the National Archives for some files to be produced and spent the time idly looking through the "G" index only to find "William Dickinson Greenfield see COWLEY WDG". I immediately sent off to the National Archives for the file.

According to the papers Grandfather had joined the Canadian Expeditionary Forces on 25 February 1915 in Winnipeg. He was assigned to the 28th Battalion, No.3 Company, with a Reg No. 74235. On attestation he said his name was William Dickinson Greenfield (Alias Cowley). However, in May of 1915 he "took his rightful name of Cowley" and became William Dickinson Greenfield COWLEY. It is also from these papers that I know that he had served previously in the West Yorkshire Regiment in the Boer War, had shrapnel scars on his back and knees and had contracted enteric fever and rheumatic fever while serving in South Africa. From information received from Lt Col TCE Vines (Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire) "... he would have been in the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment ... among the first reinforcements to be sent out from England and under the command of Lt Col FW Kitchener (brother of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum) ... although peace was declared between Great Britain and the Boers on 31 May 1902, it was not until 10 May 1904 that the Battalion sailed from Durban for Belfast."

Grandfather's CEF papers also tell me that after training with the 28th Battalion he sailed to England on the SS Northland on May 29 1915. [The Canadian Military Heritage Project has letters written by Canadian soldiers in WWI and includes one from Lou (Louis Richey) Duff of 28th Battalion to his Aunt Lily describing the journey on the SS Northland from Canada to England and on to Dibgate camp.] My Grandfather was at Dibgate Camp 19/6/15, confirmed in rank as L Corpl Otterpool Camp 1/7/15, at Shorncliffe 27/8/15, transferred from C Coy to Base 1/9/15, Shorncliffe (32nd Battalion) 15/9/15 and returned to Canada 17/11/15 on the Metagama.

Grandfather never saw active service in France with the 28th Battalion as in August 1915 he had developed rheumatism in his shoulders, arms, hands, knees and feet and spent a number of months in hospital. He had been appointed "company cook" and "Had to do cooking in open with no shelter. Exceptional weather". Typical army of course - his previous occupation is given as "carpenter". The Medical Board agreed the exposure was the cause of his condition; and as he was not recovered by the time the 28th Battalion went to France he was transferred to the 32nd and returned to Canada for further convalescence there. He was finally discharged from the CEF 16/12/16 and at that time was living in Winnipeg.

The National Archives of Canada advised that there were only two photographs in existence for the 28th Battalion and both were taken at a time when my grandfather was not in the battalion. So although I now knew a little more about him - he was 5 10" tall, had a 40" chest, a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair - there was still the frustration of not knowing what he really looked like.

Imagine then my joy when I logged onto a new (to me) website for the 28th (North-West) Battalion and on browsing through the photographs saw - 28th Battalion, No. 3 Company, 12 Platoon, and Pte W Greenfield standing tall in the back row. Robert Lindsay (Web master of this site) advises that the photographs were taken of the original members of the Battalion in Canada, before leaving for England (and therefore before Grandfather changed his surname to COWLEY). Grandfather's service number "... places him as an original recruit ...". I have also checked the National Archives online database for any other W Greenfield who was in the 28th Battalion and haven't found one listed. So far Robert has not found another W Greenfield either. The soldier standing next to him - Pte JA Durie - from his attestation papers 5' 11 1/4" tall - appears to be a little taller than W Greenfield. Maybe not a 100% certainty yet but certainly looks like this man could be my Grandfather - at the moment I'm with Robert at 99% certain.

The moral of the tale is I suppose is keep looking and keep looking and keep looking. A huge thank you to Robert for making this site such a wonderful source of information and for his advice subsequent to my finding the photograph. Now all I have to do is find out what happened to him after he returned to Winnipeg ... is there any more serendipity with my name on it out there?

Sandra Hughes, Australia. Email:

Mr. Greenfield Cowley's military records may be found at the National Archives of Canada at the following addresses:



28th (North-west) Battalion Headquarters is © Copyright 2002 Robert Lindsay. All Rights Reserved