Elderkin Brothers

William and Angus Elderkin

When Robert Elderkin saw his baby boy for the first time, he held him in his arms, and, looking down at him, gave him his name: “William.”

It was a good, traditional name. But it was also the name of Robert’s big brother, nicknamed Bill. He was the eldest Elderkin boy who went off to war and never returned. “(Uncle Bill) was quite a bit older than my father, Robert, and my father knew him, but he didn’t know him that well,” said William Elderkin, the son of Robert.

Born in July 1889, Bill left his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia at a young age to become a bank clerk. He enlisted July 28, 1915 and served as a private in the Eastern Ontario Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI). On June 2, 1916, Bill was killed in the Battle of Mount Sorrel. A PPCLI Intelligence Summary mentions that Bill’s regiment was hit by heavy shelling for almost five hours, an attack that left “the garrison… annihilated.” The remaining men tried to hold their trench position in the face of a savage German counter-attack. “Our casualties were heavy,” the report notes, due to sustained machine gun and rifle fire.

“I always thought he was killed immediately,” William said, “but I had a tour of the area in 2011 and our guide said he must have been wounded and died in hospital at Ypres, otherwise he would not have been buried at Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.”

Bill, who was twenty-six when he died, was one of two Elderkin brothers who served in the war. Angus Elderkin, the middle brother, enlisted in July 1916 at the age of nineteen. Years later, Angus told his nephew William about a particularly snooty British officer who once gave him grief for failing to respect an officer.

“[My uncle Angus] and some friends, they were still in France,” William said. “A British officer came along on horseback and he berated them for not saluting. They got so mad at his uppiness that they took him off the horse and threw him in a puddle.”

Angus survived the war and moved back to Nova Scotia, where he tended to the family farm, fell in love, and raised a family. While Angus rarely spoke about the war, he did love to talk about his true passion: politics. “He actually ran as a Liberal in the ‘50s,” said William. “He’d get on the phone with his Conservative friends and they’d be on the phone for two or three hours a day talking politics, he just loved it.” Angus lived into his late eighties, but eventually died of cancer.

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Great War? Submit their story and it could be included on this Great War Album website.