Brotherston, Alexander

Regimental Number: 101076
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; Canadian Infantry, 102nd Battalion

Alexander was born in Little Groat, Haddingtonshire, Scotland on June 25, 1889 to John and Jane Brotherston. Alexander, a harness maker by trade, immigrated to Canada and found employment at the Western Cartage Company in Edmonton. While there, he heard about the “Last Great West” through the various advertising mediums that A.M. Bezanson had initiated. Alexander decided that it would be an excellent opportunity to gain land ownership. Therefore, on October 10, 1914, he traveled north and filed a homestead application on SW-35-71-2-W6 in an area known as Bezanson. Once established on his homestead, he decided to put his harness making-skills to good use and purchased one of the business lots at the Townsite and opened a Harness Shop. The business flourished as it was the only harness shop in the area. Shortly thereafter, Alexander answered the call of duty to Country and arranged for Mr. Dewhirst to operate the Harness Shop in his absence. He enlisted with the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force in Edmonton on July 17, 1915. He was attached to the 66th Battalion, followed by the 9th Reserve Battalion, and lastly the 102nd Battalion (2nd Central Ontario Regiment) where he served as a Private during the First World War. His attestation paper stated he was 5’7” tall with light brown hair and grey eyes. Alexander arrived in England on May 7, 1916 where he trained until August 26, 1916 at which time he was sent to France to join the forces at the Western Front.

He had written a letter to a friend in Grande Prairie in January 1917, an excerpt of which is as follows:

“I have just returned to the rest camp after doing a thirteen-day trip in the trenches. I spent both Christmas and New Year’s in them and expect to return to them soon”.

The battles were fiercely intense in the fall of 1916 and Alexander must have been quite concerned about his mortality as per the letter he wrote regarding the whereabouts of his will. On June 8, 1917, in an area south of Lens and just west of Avion, an attack had been ordered to destroy enemy positions, capture the generating station and clear the enemy to the Souchez River. Days of intense fighting ensued – defensive wire was encountered along with fierce machine and shellfire and eventually hand-to-hand combat. However, the enemy positions were destroyed, prisoners were taken and a new front-line was established. Sadly, Private Alexander Brotherston was one of the casualties during the Souchez River Campaign; he was 27 years old. Alexander is commemorated at the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Alexander’s mother was issued the Memorial Cross – it is a gift from Canada and given as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice on the part of Canadian soldiers who died for their Country during the war. Alexander was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is commemorated in the First World War Book of Remembrance, page 207.

Although Alexander’s life was curtailed far too soon, he will always be remembered as a significant contributor to the development of the Bezanson Townsite by implementing and operating an essential business. The Harness Shop at the Townsite became known as Dewhirst-Brotherston Harness Shop, therefore; Mr. Dewhirst must have purchased the lot and business from Alexander’s estate. His homestead land was transferred to his mother, Jane Brotherston, on May 13, 1918 with William Bayhen, business owner at the Bezanson Townsite, acting as his legal representative.

Contributed by Wanda Zenner

Fallen Heroes website
Smoky River to Grande Prairie