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Philip Mansell Alexander
Born on September 19, 1892, Philip Mansell Alexander entered the service of The Canadian Bank of Commerce at the London, England branch in June 1911. He enlisted in August 1914 and joined the 1st London Scottish. He fought with them later that year at Messines, where they made their heroic stand.
Philip Alexander later transferred to the 11th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders with whom he fought at the Somme in 1916. He died on July 30, 1916 from a shrapnel wound to the head.
Excerpt from letter dated November 21, 1914 describing the fighting at Messines:
What rifle fire would not do, we found that a little persuasion with cold steel had the desired result. We, ourselves, unfortunately, were suffering pretty badly all this time, fellows falling all around. We held on to this trench until seven a.m. the next morning (Sunday, 1st November) when, as we were surrounded more or less on three sides, we had orders to retire, which we did down a small valley through corpses and across fields for two miles, through an inferno of maxim and rifle fire. On our way back we met strong British re-inforcements, and it turned out that we had held the German attack just long enough for these to arrive in time to finish the repulse of the enemy.
Alan Mansell Alexander
Alan Mansell Alexander, Philip's younger brother, was born on January 5, 1896 in Southsea, England. He entered the service of the bank at the London branch in December 1912. Enlisting in October 1915, he joined the 1st Officer's Cadet Battalion and received a commission in the Queen's Westminster Rifles, 16th Reserve Battalion, London Regiment in July 1916.
Alan Alexander fought in France during 1916 and then in Greece and Palestine during 1917. He was killed instantly by a machine gun bullet, at the taking of Jerusalem, on December 8, 1917.
Excerpt from letter dated March 6, 1916:
Very many thanks for sending me the latest copies of the letters written by the C. B. of C. men at the front. I enjoyed reading them immensely and am glad to see that the fellows from the London branch are still going strong! ….
There are two companies down here comprised of 200 men. We sleep twenty-five men in a hut which is quite comfortable as we have plenty of scope and tables and fire to sit by when off duty.
We are on parade between 7 o'clock in the morning until 3 o'clock in the afternoon with an hour off at breakfast and dinner. In the evenings we are busy writing up notes taken of lectures and swotting generally.
We are fed very well here, as being Cadets, we get an extra 1/6 messing allowance to the ordinary 5 1/2 granted to each man per day.
Brother is up in Yorkshire going through a bombing and grenade course and is thoroughly enjoying life.
Letter dated March 6, 1916