Gilbert was the son of John Boland Atkinson and Jane Atkinson who lived at 86 St George’s Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne. He had three sisters, Mabel, Mildred and Leonare, and two brothers, Betram and Alan. He was educated at Kelvinside Academy in Glasgow, after which he attended Glasgow University and Edinburgh University. Following his period of study, Gilbert passed the examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, of which he later became an Associate. He served articles as a chartered accountant with Messrs A. Walbank & Co., and then spent two years with the Tyneside Electrical Development Company, after which he started his own practice. Gilbert was a member of staff at Armstrong College between 1914 and 1915, lecturing in accountancy in the commercial course. He was also well known in golfing circles, being secretary to the City of Newcastle Golf Club and the Northumberland Union of Golf Clubs. He frequently represented Northumberland in inter-county matches.
Gilbert joined the Durham Light Infantry, 8th Battalion, as a 2nd Lieutenant on 18th June 1915. He was wounded during service in March 1916, and after a second period of service in France was sent home in November 1917. He returned to the front line again in June 1918 to serve with 20th Battalion Durham Light Infantry near Ypres. At the time of his death, Gilbert was serving with the 20th Battalion near Ypres. He was wounded on the 4th October whilst leading his men at Poperinghe. He died two days later, on the 4th October 1918, aged 35. His Colonel wrote that “he was carrying out his duties in his usual fearless manner, and was at the moment encouraging his men to repel an enemy counter-attack.”