Few veterans remain from the Second World War, but the Atkinson family has two.

Robert Atkinson, 94, lives in Saskatoon. His cousin, William Atkinson, is 101-years-old and lives in Winnipeg.

Both cousins enlisted in the army: Robert in 1943 at the age of 18 and William in 1942. During the war, Robert Atkinson said he knew his cousin was in the army but didn’t know he was stationed overseas – until a chance meeting when trying to find some relatives in England.

“I decided to take a couple of days and go up in Northern England. I had no idea that my cousin was doing the same thing on behalf of his family – and we just happened to hit there on the same weekend,” he said. “It was just coincidence.”

Although briefly stationed in the same place, their experiences during the war greatly differed.

William Atkinson had the opportunity to return home after the manager for the company he worked for ordered his industrial release. Robert Atkinson on the other hand, was injured and barely survived.

“I was shot in the arm and in the leg,” he said. “And then a phosphorus bomb went off and hit the back of my head (but) it seemed to spare my brains somehow.”

After the injury, Atkinson spent time in hospitals in Holland, Belgium, England, and finally Regina, where he underwent a series of operations to save his arm. He spent about 13 months in hospital.

Even after all these years, both cousins say Remembrance Day is still a special moment to remember those who weren’t lucky enough to come home.

Atkinson said the cousins still try to keep in touch through phone calls. The last time they saw each other in person was about a year ago for William’s 100th birthday.