'It means the world to me': Decades-long search for Vimy vet keepsake
Published Wednesday, April 5, 2017 8:38AM EDT
It’s engraved with the initials “HJD” along with a Canadian Expeditionary Force number: 652114. It’s nearly a century old and it holds a special significance for one Alberta woman who’s desperate to find it.
The gold wristwatch was given to Harold James Dowling by his commanding officer following the end of the First World War. He had fought with the 151st Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the famous battle at Vimy Ridge in France in 1917.
His granddaughter, Lori Dowling, says that her grandfather never shared his wartime memories with her before he died.
“As a 10-year-old I wouldn’t have understood,” Dowling told CTV Calgary from Banff, Alta., on Tuesday. “Later, I asked my father if he ever talked about the First World War in particular and being at Vimy Ridge and dad said ‘No, it wasn’t something that was really discussed within the family.’”
Dowling’s father gave her the watch as a keepsake, but it was stolen while she was working for the Alberta government in London, England in the early 1990s.
“It was probably the one thing that meant the most to me,” Dowling said. “I spent weeks and months after that scouring all the second-hand stores in London, going to the thieves markets and antiques markets, but I was never able to find the watch.”
As the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge approaches on April 9, Dowling said she’s hoping the renewed interest in the historical event will help her recover her grandfather’s watch. She uploaded a short video on YouTube describing the watch and its importance to her.
“The watch is somewhere out there and I’d really like it back,” Dowling narrates in the video. “It probably means very little to the person who currently has it, but it means the world to me.”
Dowling included her contact information at the end of the video so that anyone who may have knowledge of the watch’s whereabouts can let her know. She said she believes the watch may now be in the hands of a collector and she hopes they might stumble across her video and realize its sentimental value to her and return it.
“Vimy means so much to me,” she said. “My grandfather meant so much to me and my father is still alive and it would mean a lot to him if the watch game back.”
To contact Lori Dowling about her grandfather's watch you can email here at: email@example.com
With a report from CTV Calgary’s Kevin Green