Lieutenant Colonel T.P.T. Rowland
119th (Algoma) Battalion
Battalions on all sides of the 119th have been broken up and merged into other Battalions. But the 119th remains a unit and retains its name, its number, and its identity … The great pity of it is that the battalion cannot be kept together, that those, whom I might call the “Charter Members,” cannot continue together, go to the front together, and fight together. This is, however, impossible.
(Lt. Col. Rowland, The Sault Daily Star, 27 December 1916, 4)
Thomas Percival Turton Rowland was born on 10 April 1875 in Niagara-on-the-lake. He was a lawyer in Sault Ste. Marie with seven years in the Queen’s Own Rifles and two years in the 51st Soo Regiment. Beginning in November 1915, he organized the 119th Battalion from Algoma and Manitoulin Island. The unit provided reinforcement drafts in England from August 1916 until it was absorbed by the 8th Reserve Battalion in April 1918.
While recruiting the 119th, Rowland had implored potential volunteers:
After the war is over you will be only two or three years older than you are today. The Boys will know that You will be surrounded by those who enlisted, and fought, and returned. They will want to know what you did. What will be your answer? And what, your answer in the long years to come? And to your children, and their children?
While proud that his unit unlikely so many others had not be broken up on arrival to England, Rowland recognized the reinforcement situation made sending the 119th to France impossible. He nevertheless reassured the people of Algoma they could be proud, writing before Christmas 1916, “These are their boys; here to improve themselves to fight their nation’s battles; and then to fight, perhaps to fall–but whatever may be their fate, ready to meet it courageously, and with a smile.”
After year some grumbled back home that Rowland remained safe in England while his boys were being sent into danger. During the 1917 federal election, after Rowland endorsed the Union incumbent in Algoma West, Liberal candidate Charles Napier Smith promised if elected, “I’ll tell him that before another boy goes to the front from this district that he must go into the trenches himself, even if he has to go as a private.” In reply, a Soo Regiment militia major, editorialized, “It is not ‘cricket’ to strike at a man behind his back and in Col. Rowland’s absence I just want to say that he is a brave and honourable gentleman who is eating his heart out in England to get to France.”
Indeed, Rowland reverted to the rank of major and joined the 58th Battalion on the front. He returned to Canada in July 1919 after demobilization.
He died on in Sault Ste. Marie on 30 December 1952.