Percival Anderson, or Percy as he was commonly known, was born in Big Baddeck, Victoria County, NS, on July 7, 1885. He was the son of Alexander and Susan Theresa (Archibald) Anderson. He grew up in the Baddeck area and became a farmer, and was active in the local militia. He served six years in the 94th Victoria Regiment "Argyll Highlanders", the pre-curser to the Cape Breton Highlanders.
After the outbreak of the First World War, Percival enlisted as a lieutenant in the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). He joined in Halifax, NS, on October 28, 1915. While training at Aldershot, NS, he was promoted to the rank of captain. Percival went overseas with the 85th Battalion on the troop ship SS Olympic in October, 1916, and after a period of training in England, proceeded on to France with the battalion in February, 1917. He was promoted to the rank of major on February 10, 1917.
On April 9, 1917, during the battle for Vimy Ridge, the 85th Battalion was tasked with taking an enemy strongpoint on Hill 145, a dominating feature on the ridge. During the battalion’s attack, Percival, who was in command of ’D” Company, which was made up of mostly Cape Bretoners, personally led his men and took their objective after fierce fighting. Percival captured several machine guns and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, fighting with pistol, bayonet and sometimes his fists. After consolidating their position, Percival then went back out to “no-man’s land” which was still under enemy fire, and single handedly brought back a badly wounded soldier. These actions earned Percival a Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Percival was wounded in the fighting but stayed with the battalion.
On June 12, 1917, in fighting in what became known as “The Triangle”, Percival’s “D” Company suffered severely from a gas attack. Although gassed himself, Percival refused to be sent to the rear. Later in the summer, Percival fell ill with trench fever, a common disease at the time, transmitted by body lice. He was finally forced to leave the battalion, and spent time in a convalescent home for officers in the French port of Dieppe. After recovering, he returned to duty with his unit.
Sadly, Percival was killed in action during the bloody fighting at Passchendaele, on October 30, 1917. He was again in command of “D” Company and was in the midst of the action. His body was never recovered. Percival was 32 years old, single, and held the rank of major. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate (Ypres) Memorial in Belgium.
At the time of his death, Percival's brother, James Archibald (Archie), was also serving as an officer in the 85th Battalion, and their sister, Minerva Blanche, was a nursing sister in the Canadian Army Medical Corps.
For additional information on Percival William Anderson, refer to the following two online sources:
Thanks to Caitlin Hanam for sharing her wonderful family photos of Percival Anderson contained in Section 2, and thanks to Jim MacDonald of Baddeck for putting me in contact with Caitlin. Images of all other items in Percival Anderson's Personal Profile are from my own collection.