From Colonel A.S.A. Galloway, ED, CD
THE FIRST TO DIE IN WORLD WAR II.
Reproduced from Pro Patria No. 59, December 1985.
Several months ago I visited Brookwood Cemetery, near the famous Bisley Ranges in Surrey, England. I have done this several times before, as an old pre-war friend of mine who enlisted in The Regiment in 1939 is buried there. He is Pte Wesley McAllister, one of our first two or three fatal casualties by enemy action in World War II. Wesley died as the result of wounds received when a German bomb fell on the battalion's bivouac area near the village of Charlwood on August 25, 1940. Pte George Dowell was instantly killed by the same bomb. Two days later, Pte Elmer J. Lee died, and he may have also died of wounds received on August 25, although I am not sure.
Although the first to die as the result of enemy action in World War II, this trio was not the first to give their lives on active service in that war. On the night of December 17/18, 1939, the train carrying The RCR to its embarkation point at Halifax was involved in an accident at Amherst, NS. This resulted in the death of LCpl Ralph W. Connor.
Someone with more luck than the rest of this group was only slightly wounded by the Charlwood bomb. That was Pte Robert E. Smith. It is believed that Smith was sleeping between McAllister and Dowell in the same tent. All he received was a slight wound on a toe: He was reported wounded, but "remaining on duty".
In the case of McAllister there was a particular twist of Fate. He was a former bank clerk and was to report to the Pay Office for employment the next morning. One day earlier, and he would have been sleeping in the "B" Company lines, which was where the bomb fell.