Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Les soldats de la Grande Guerre : Projet de biographies historiques sur les soldats de Fredericton

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Atkinson, Alexander Wardlow

Private 742421
71st York Carleton Regiment
115th Battalion, New Brunswick
26th Battalion, New Brunswick


Private Alexander Wardlow Atkinson was born December 18, 1892 in Fredericton New Brunswick to Alexander and Mary Atkinson. According to the 1901 Census, Alex had two sisters, Nellie May, who would pass-away at the age of ten in the winter of 1904, and Nina. Alex also had one step-sister, Annie Wilson, the daughter of Mary who likely came from a previous relationship. Annie would marry Lewis G. Hastings in 1907 and together they would have a son named Wardlow. According to his attestation papers, Alexander worked as a shoemaker and lived with his family at 236 King Street in Fredericton just prior to enlisting. Records suggest that his father had passed away sometime before 1915 and the 1911 census reveals that his mother was no longer living with the family as she had moved to 60 Lower Beechwood Avenue in Dublin, Ireland.

Alex would name his step-sister, Annie as his next-of-kin, given that she and her young son were also living at the home on King Street despite her recent marriage to Lewis. She would later relocate to Toronto and her sister, Nina, would move to Massachusetts. Alex stood approximately five feet seven inches tall, had dark hair, blue eyes, and had what was described as a “ruddy” complexion with tattoos on both forearms. He was 22 years old and had two years of experience with the 71st Regiment at Camp Valcartier when he enlisted with the 115th New Brunswick Battalion on January 12, 1916 in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Wartime Experience

Newspapers indicate that Alexander Atkinson had been at Camp Valcartier for two years prior to enlisting with the 115th Battalion in Saint John, New Brunswick. After being at Camp Valcartier for training until 1916, he would later arrive and embark from Halifax, Nova Scotia with his unit on the S.S. Olympic July 23, 1916. The 115th would arrive in Liverpool, England July 31 and Alexander would be in and out of Connaught Hospital for the next two months before being transferred to the 112th Battalion, a Nova Scotia unit at Bramshott for training.

The Western Front had just experienced some of the most horrific fighting to date during the Somme battles and new reserve units were needed to replenish battalions on the front line. By February of 1917, Alexander would be moved to the 13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada (The Black Watch) before rejoining a New Brunswick unit in the spring, one that would become known as the Fighting 26th out of Saint John. He proceeded overseas to France with the 26th Battalion in May where he would stay in northern France and Belgium for the remainder of his service. The Passchendaele campaign began in late July and continued until November and it saw Alexander’s Battalion active throughout. For those who fought in and around the Ypres Salient it became known as the “Battle of Mud”. Few battles were more gruesome than Passchendaele which saw more than 15, 654 Canadian casualties as the battlefield itself became a death trap. It is among this gruesome fighting that Alexander found himself instantly killed by machine gun fire on November 6, 1917, the day Passchendaele Ridge would be captured despite terrible losses. Alexander was 23 years old and his body was never recovered

Lest we forget

Alexander Wardlow Atkinson is remembered with honour at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Menin Gate is a memorial to the missing soldiers in Belgium which covers an area known as the Ypres Salient. The Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, and varied in area and shape throughout the war. The Ypres Menin Gate memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on July 24, 1927. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient.

*This biography was researched and written by Cody Graham & Jacob Hogan, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.