Name of Researcher / Enw’r ymchwylydd: Mavis William
Name / Enw: Atkinson, William
Regiment/Catrawd: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Hawke Bn. R.N. Div. (Formerly 4th Cheshire Regiment General Service)
Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: Able Seaman R/4259 (Formerly 243687)
Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Achiet-le- Grand Communal Cemetery Extension
Ref No Grave or Memorial / Rhif cyfeirnod bedd: II. F. 28.
Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France
Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: Unknown
Date of Death: 21st March 1918
Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:
Died of wounds in 45th Casualty Clearing Station (Gas poisoning 13/3/18), died 21st March 1918.
William Atkinson came to my attention through a newspaper cutting I found – FLINTSHIRE OBSERVER & NEWS 11th April 1918 – SHOTTON – Died from Wounds.
Much regret was occasioned amongst members of the staff of the Hawarden Bridge Ironworks last week, when the sad news was received of the death , from wounds received in action of Private W. ATKINSON. He was 24 years of age, and was a well known athlete and for some time played for the Sealand Football Club. Soon after the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Naval Division. He died on March 21st.
I have just found this soldier and as far as I can see he is not on the Connah’s Quay & Shotton Cenotaph, nor on the Hawarden War Memorial so as I think he should be remembered somewhere, I am adding him here. He is not on the Birkenhead War Memorial either.
William was born circa 1894 in Birkenhead, the son of Samuel & Lucy Atkinson, there is a possible birth certificate for William (Cheshire,Wirral BIR/177/98), but will have to be purchased to confirm/deny. Samuel married Lucy Buckles in the Holy Trinity Church, Birkenhead in 1893 (Cheshire, Wirral BK2/3/190).
William first appears on a census age 7 in 1901 living with his parents at 88, Hinderton Road, Birkenhead, Cheshire. Father Samuel, 30 was a Railway Platelayer and had been born in Eastom, Cheshire. His wife, mother of William was Lucy, 28, born in Liverpool
The 1911 census sees the family had moved to 18, West Street, Newton by Chester.(5 rooms) Samuel, 40 was a Railway Inspector and Lucy, 39, state that they had been married for 18 years and 1 child had been born to them and was still living, this of course was William, 17 single and a Clerk in the Corrugated Iron Works.
This was probably why William moved to John Summers & Sons at Hawarden Bridges Steelworks, Shotton, although there is no census to check where he lived and when he moved here, so any help would be gratefully received.
The British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920 about William Atkinson do give us an address when he enlisted in 1915, the address then was 40, Balls Road, East, Birkenhead, this was the address of his parents, shown on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission documents, although Lucy is shown as his next of kin on Army papers.
William attested on the 22nd November 1915 but probably, as he worked at the Steelworks, he was put on the Army Reserve and his Mobilisation was dated 5th January 1917 when he stated his Trade or calling was – Clerk, John Summers & Sons Ltd. Hawarden Bridge Steelworks, Shotton, Chester. He was 21 years and 304 days old and not married. His chest measurement was 32 and 1/2 inches with a range of expansion of 3 inches. He didn’t actually get posted until 5th January 1917 and transferred to Army Reserve Class “B” from 27th April 1917, then posted to the Royal Naval Division as a Private on the 27th June 1917. DISCHARGED stamped across the top of the paper.
His Medical History paper gives his description:- Height:- 5 feet, 6 and a half inches,
Physical Development:- Good
When vaccinated:- Infancy
Vision Right and left:- 6/6
Slight defects:- Abcess on right Jaw, (this may explain below.)
Enlisted at Birkenhead 22nd November 1915
William was in hospital from the 14th January 1917 to the 18th April 1917, 95 days, but I cannot make out what he was ill with, terrible writing. It looks like “Carrs of Jaw.”
Great Britain, Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War, 1914-1924 about William Atkinson tells us that he was an Able Seaman, his Unit was the Hawke Division and he died of wounds in the 45th Casualty Clearing Station* after Gas Poisoning on the 13th March 1918. It also tells us that Service History: – Formerly served 4th Cheshire Regt., Discharged 27/4/17; Entered RND 27/6/17; Draft for BEF 18/10/17, joined Hawke Bn. 13/11/17-13/3/18 gassed.
I was curious about the gassing and asked the “The Great War Forum: 1914-1918.invisionzone.com”
Posted Today, 30th July 2014 11:36 AM
From “The Royal Naval Division” by Douglas Jerrold:
‘On the 8th March test barrages were put down by them (the Germans) on the right and centre brigades, and on March 12th a prolonged gas bombardment of the divisional sector marked the final stage of the enemy’s methodical preparation. The whole of the Flesquieres salient was drenched with gas shells for more than a day (200,000 shells was the official calculation), and the resulting casualties, which had risen to more than 2,000 by the day of the attack, were without doubt as effective an aid to the enemy’s plans as our screen of tanks had been in the Cambrai offensive. The gas used was chiefly Yellow Cross (“mustard”) gas, and its greatest tactical value was that the results were not, as a rule, instantaneous; it hung round every trench, every dug-out, every headquarter for an indeterminate period, and no amount of gas discipline could prevent a growing casualty list among troops bound to remain in the infected area and to carry on their ordinary and laborious duties.”
The Hawke Battalion lost 15 Officers and 582 men from gas between 12th March and 21st March.
The Germans were preparing for Operation Michael – the Spring Offensive.
Many thanks to Mark for helping to tell William’s story.