2nd October 1914
The County Herald
Name of Memorial / Enw’r gofeb: Northop Memorial
Name / Enw: Henry Noel Atkinson
Regiment/Catrawd: 3rd Bn. attd. 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment
Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: Second Lieutenant
Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souche
Ref No Grave or Memorial / Rhif cyfeirnod bedd: XIII. E.12
Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France
Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: DSO, Mentioned in Dispatches, The Victory Medal, The British War Medal and the 1914 Star
Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:
This officer was reported missing on 22 October 1914. There was still no trace of him in September 1919 (According to the Flintshire Roll of Honour card which records his war story). He fought in the Battle of Mons.
Henry Noel Atkinson was a member of a family that had serious upper class connections through his mother’s line. She was Ursula Mary Cotton-Jodrell and the male members of her family achieved very high positions either in the military or in the church. Ursula’s father (Henry Noel Atkinson’s grandfather) was George Edward Lynch Cotton (born in Chester in 1813). He distinguished himself firstly in the world of education. He was appointed by Thomas Arnold to be a master at Rugby School where he taught for 15 years and then he was made Headmaster at Marlborough School. In 1857 he was consecrated Bishop at Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury and then personally selected by Queen Victoria to be Bishop of Calcutta and Metropoliton Bishop of India, Burma and Ceylon. He drowned in 1866, having consecrated a cemetery at Kushtea, he slipped on the plank taking him back to the boat he was using and fell into the Ganges, was washed away and never seen again.
Ursula’s brother (Henry Noel Atkinson’s Uncle) was Colonel Sir Edward Thomas Davenant Cotton-Jodrell. This powerful and wealthy man owned estates in Cheshire and Derbyshire. He was Commander of the Cheshire Royal Engineers from 1888 to 1908. He was on HQ staff of the War Office from 1906 to 1912. he was MP for Wirral 1885 to 1900. His wife was Mary Rennie Coleridge (related to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Ursula married Rev Walter Hillyard in 1879. He was the vicar of St Oswalds in Worleston, Cheshire. (In this paish was Reaseheath Hall, the home of Ursula’s brother above). They had a son George Walter Hillyard who was born in 1880. There was also a baby girl who did not survive. Tragically Rev Hillyard died in 1881 at the age of 28, leaving Ursula a widow.
(PS The son George Walter Hillyard has proved very difficult to trace. He attended his stepfather’s funeral in 1914 and we have reason to believe that he spent at least some of his life in Australia and Canada)
In the 1891 census the family was still at Audlem and Henry was the only child. He had a resident nurse called Ada Clarke to help take care of him. The household was supported by other resident servants. Christine Cooper was a Lady’s Maid/Domestic servant, Mary Woodlam was the cook, Eleanor Hind was a housemaid and Edith Bosworth was an under housemaid.
Ursula remarried in 1884 another vicar, Rev Arthur Atkinson who was 24 years older than her and the vicar of Audlem Parish in Cheshire. Four years later, their only child was born. Henry Noel Atkinsonarrived on Christmas Day 1888 at Audlem Vicarage, in Cheshire. His father was by then 54 years old
The next census of 1901, finds 12 year old Henry away at boarding school on the Wirral. His father was by then a retired clergyman though he had been ‘promoted’ in the intervening years to Rev Canon Atkinson an honorary Canon to Chester Cathedral. He lived with his wife Ursula in Highfield Hall,Northop Hall and again there was a supporting cast of domestic servants. Sarah Lewis was the cook, Matilda Lewis, Mary Lewis and Elizabeth Littler were kitchen maids/domestic servants and Ann Cockburn was a Laundress
In the 1911 Census the family was still at Highfield Hall. Henry Noel was 22 and is described as ‘a Gentleman Gardener’. His father was 77, his mother was 53. There was a lady named Ellen Baker aged 24 – described as a ‘companion’ and a gentleman visitor and five servants listed.
Education. His first school was ‘Mr Leonard Dobie’s, Moorland House’, Heswall. He then went to Charterhouse where he was in the cricket eleven. From there he went to St John’s College Cambridge
Hobbies. Henry was a keen golfer and was a member of Chester Golf Club. He won the Welsh Amateur Golf Championship in 1913
Army Career. He joined the Special Reserve of the Cheshire regiment on November 1st 1913 and went through his six months training with the 1st Battalion then stationed in Londonderry. On mobilisation he rejoined his regiment and was at once attached to the 1st Battalion still at Londonderry and sailed with them from Belfast on August 14th 1914 under orders for the front where he was until he was officially reported missing after the battle of La Bassee at Volaines. It was presumed at the time that he was in all probability wounded and a prisoner of war. There were unofficial reports that he had been wounded and taken to a French hospital, although it seems that in fact he was killed. He was promoted to lieutenant on 2nd February 1915 which was about four months after the date he died.
The DSO (Distinguished Service Order). Henry Noel Atkinson was awarded this in December 1914 ‘For conspicuous gallantry under heavy fire from front and both flanks, by collecting a few men and checking the enemy, thereby facilitating the retirement of his colleagues.’.
The death of Canon Atkinson (father) A year after his son was reported missing, Canon Atkinson died aged 81 years. He only ever knew that his precious only child was ‘missing’ There is a commemorative plaque dedicated to him in Northop Church..
This very sad soldier’s story raises as many questions as it answers. His death and commemoration were handled very differently to any other soldier that we have learnt about. He was the first casualty from this parish which made the event more sensational – the long lists of casualties had not yet begun. His Uncle was very influential both in the Cheshire Regiment and in the War Office and indeed in Parlaiment. Henry Noel Atkinson was promoted after his death. He was, (almost uniquely) allowed to have his own memorial stone in France (see link below to read this sad saga). The story of poor Henry Noel Atkinson gives us a glimpse into a world where patronage and family connections counted for much. In the end, though, his death on the battlefield was no less harrowing than any of the others – he was a young man cut down in his prime leaving a devastated family.
16th September 2008
Visit to Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez.
After a nightmare journey during which we got completely lost, we finally found Cabaret- Rouge Cemetery. This vast cemetery is arranged in a circular shape around a central monument ‘Their name liveth forevermore.’
This is the red brick house/cafe known as Cabaret Rouge. It lent its name to a communication trench and then in turn to the cemetery.
Souchez is a village 3.5 kilometres north of Arras. It was completely destroyed during the war. Cabaret Rouge was a house about a kilometre south of the village. Many of the graves were brought into this cemetery from surrounding battlefields and it now contains 7,655 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, more than half of them are unidentified.
We found Henry Noel Atkinson’s grave easily as he is just on the left of the main entrance gate. His story is sad and complex. After the war his family decided to have a memorial stone laid close to the spot where it was believed he fell at La Basse. In 1923, nine years after his death, his body was found and identified by disc – it was 400 yards from the family memorial stone. The body, along with others found nearby, was exhumed and moved to Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery. The family memorial stone was moved by the Cheshire Regiment to the cemetery at Volaines where it serves as a memorial to all missing soldiers from that Regiment. It is inscribed as follows:
"Near this spot
Henry Noel Atkinson DSO
Second Lieutenant 1st Cheshire Regiment
Is blieved to have been
Killed in Action on
October 22nd 1914
To his memory and that
of the officers and men
Who may have fallen with him
This cross is placed by his Mother and brother
God proved them and
Found them worthy
Wisdom III 5"
The same quotation was put at the bottom of his new War Grave in Cabaret Rouge cemetery. We wrote in the Visitors’ Book
‘A visit in memory of Henry Noel Atkinson of Northop, who was reported missing for many, many months. Hedd Perfaith Hedd’
A return visit to Henry Noel Atkinson's grave in Cabaret Rouge. We just happened to be passing this time . May 2016
Visit to Audlem - Eifion and Viv Williams.
Whilst on our way to somewhere else, we found ourselves very close to Audlem Village and decided to go and visit the place where Henry Noel Atkinson had been born and where he had spent his formative years. We spent a good hour wandering around the lovely church where Henry Noel’s father had been the vicar. We found a number of tributes to our soldier as well as to his father Canon Atkinson. Henry Noel is named on the War Memorial inside the church and also on the one outside. We saw the stained glass window that Mrs Atkinson had had made to commemorate her husband and her son. We were also thrilled to find a framed photograph of Canon Atkinson on the wall at the back of the church and managed to take a photograph of it.
Audlem is a lovely village – worth a visit. We had a delicious lunch in a very nice little cafe, ‘The Salad Bowl’ and bought a perfect basket of daffodils – all on the point of blooming at the nearby florist’s. Everyone we met was friendly and we would especially like to say thankyou to the kind lady who showed us around the church. The vicarage is alas no longer in existence.
The War Memorial outside the church (left) and the commemorative stone at the base of the cross where Henry Noel Atkinson’s name is one of those inscribed.
‘In honour of the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and in thankful remembrance of Arthur Atkinson Priest for thirty years Vicar of Audlem (1865 -95) who fell asleep October 24th 1915 aged eighty one. Also of Henry Noel Atkinson DSO 2nd Lieut, Cheshire Regiment who was killed in action at Volaines France Oct 22nd 1914 aged twenty five. These four windows are dedicated by Ursula Mary Atkinson – wife and mother.
I believe in the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.’
We are very grateful indeed to Mr John Delaney who regularly visits Volaines in France. He kindly took these photographs of Henry Noel Atkinson’s original memorial stone which was placed firstly close to the spot where it was believed he fell at La Basse. Now it is in the cemetery at Volaines.