2nd Lieutenant Henry Noel Atkinson was born at Audlem Vicarage, Cheshire on 25 December 1888, son of Reverend Arthur Atkinson, Clerk in Holy Orders, Hon. Canon of Chester Cathedral, and Ursula Mary Atkinson (née Cotton-Jodrell).
He was educated at Moorland House, Heswall, Cheshire; Charterhouse School and St John's College, Cambridge.
1st Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment
2nd Lieutenant Henry Noel ATKINSON
- An Officer with "Two Graves"!
He joined the 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve), Cheshire Regiment, on 12 March 1913, joining the 1st Battalion for training on 1 November 1913. On mobilisation he embarked for France with the 1st Battalion on 14 August 1914.
One must wonder, though, if Lt Atkinson's DSO had anything to do with the Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded to 7085 Private McCarthy, F. 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment, whose citation reads:
"On 15th September, at Missy Sur Aisne, volunteered to fetch ammunition under fire, and at night, at the imminent risk of being shot by both friend and foe, assisted 2nd Lieutenant Atkinson to rejoin his company".(London Gazette Issue 29009 published on the 15 December 1914. Page 8 of 22)
Lt Atkinson was later mentioned in Sir John French's Despatch of 14 January 1915 (London Gazette, 17 February 1915): "For gallant and distinguished service in the Field."
He was promoted to Lieutenant on 2 February 1915, but by this time - as his gravestone (above right) clearly shows - he was long dead.
ãG E Conway, 2009
He served unscathed through the fighting at Mons, Le Cateau and The Aisne until 22 October 1914, near La Bassée, at Voilaines, where he won his D.S.O. However, after the battle he was reported officially "missing" and was believed to have been captured.
He was thought to have been wounded and was reported, unofficially, to have been taken to a French hospital at Douai, which was eventually taken by the Germans.
He was awarded a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) - London Gazette, 1 December 1914. His citation read:
"Henry Noel Atkinson, 2nd Lieut., 3rd Battn, The Cheshire Regiment.
For conspicuous gallantry under heavy fire from both flanks by collecting a few men and checking the enemy, thereby facilitating the retirement of his comrades."
The Battalion War Diary for 22 October 1914 states:
5.10 a.m. Enemy made heavy attack, and took the trenches at the point of the bayonet. Battalion retired to RUE DU MARAIS under very heavy fire. Manchesters came up in support.
8.0 p.m. Battalion withdrawn and went in bivouac at last E of RUE DE BETHUNE.
Casualties: Captains Shore, Rich, Hartford, 2/Lieuts Atkinson, Leicester, Greenhalgh missing, Captain Forster, 18 N.C.O.s & men wounded, 200 N.C.O.s & men missing including Sergeant Major.
CAPTAIN MAHONY died in hospital. Lieut. T L Frost took over command of the Battalion.
After the War, as no grave could be found Lt. Atkinson's father had a tombstone laid where it was believed his son had fallen.
In 1923 the body was found and reinterred in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery (Grave XIII. E. 12) because it was still accepting burials. The Cheshire Regiment had the redundant stone moved to Violaines Communal Cemetery, adding the inscription:-
"In February 1923 his body (identified by his disc) was found, together with that of an unknown soldier of the Cheshire Regiment, about 400 yards from where his stone was originally erected in a neighbouring field. Both were removed under direction of the Imperial War Graves Commission, to the Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez. Removal of the stone having therefore become necessary it has passed into the possession of the Cheshire Regiment and has been re-erected in this cemetery as a perpetual memorial to all others of the Regiment who are still among the missing".
In 1995 the Cheshire Regiment restored it and repainted the weathered inscription after some lobbying by the Lancs and Cheshire Branch of the Western Front Association.
The inscription reads:
Near this spot
Henry Noel Atkinson D.S.O.
Second Lieutenant 1st Chehsire Regiment
is believed to have been
Killed in Action on
October 22nd 1914
To his Memory and that
of the Officers & Men
who may have fallen with
This cross is placed by his
mother & brother
God Proved Them And
Found Them Worthy
Wisdom III 5
Before the War Lieutenant Atkinson had been a keen golfer and was, in 1914, the reigning Amateur Champion of Wales. Page 28 of the 1915 "Golf Illustrated" contains the following citation, alongside his photo:
"2nd LIEUT. H. N. ATKINSON
Of the Cheshire Regiment who has just received the Distinguished Service Order "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 comrades."
Similarly, 'The American Golfer' Overseas Notes - London, December 7, 1914 - reported:
"Another notable loss is that of Lieut. H. N. Atkinson, of the Cheshire regiment, who was Welsh amateur champion and won the championship at his first appearance at a Welsh Union meeting, beating Mr. C. H. Hamilton in the final at the thirty-eighth hole. Lieutenant Atkinson has been reported as missing, and the worst is feared."
Click this link to read more about Lieutenant Atkinson's early life in the Parish of Northop, where he is commemorated on the Parish War Memorial.
Click on image to enlarge
Lieutenant Atkinson is also commemorated on the War memorial in Audlem Village, Cheshire.
Lieutenant Atkinson's military service and where he is buried.
The 1911 Census (RG 14/33942) shows Henry living with his parents at Highfield Hall, Northop, Flintshire, where his father (now aged 77) was 'Clerk in Holy Orders' at the Parish Church of Ss Eurgain and Peter. Henry's occupation is listed as, "Gentleman Gardner". The house boasted a 'Companion' and 5 servants, mostly cooks and domestics.