26286 Private William Alfred Atkinson
15th (Service) Battalion (1st Leeds) the West Yorkshire Regiment
'The Leeds Pals'
William Atkinson was born in Leeds in 1893 he was second of the seven children of Tom and Mary Atkinson. Tom Atkinson was a Bricklayer. Both he and Mary were born in Lincolnshire.
All the Atkinson children were born in Leeds and William spent his childhood at various addresses on Lady Pit Lane. Eventually the family settled at number 90, and it was from this address that William left home to join the Army.
William Atkinson’s service records, it is assumed, were destroyed by enemy bombing of the Arnside Street storehouse, but it is possible to state that he did not join his battalion until after the end of 1915 as he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star, indeed, it is likely that he did not join the battalion until after it had been withdrawn from the battle of the Somme in July 1916.
When the battalion was withdrawn from the Battle of the Somme, having suffered terrible casualties on the first morning, it was sent north to the relatively quiet sector around the small French commune of Festubert, the scene of the 1915 battle. The battalion was engaged in holding the front line in this area on 20th August 1916. The battalion’s war diary, a record of the daily occurrences describes the day in the following terms: “Throughout the day the enemy shelled our front line system with guns of heavy calibre and heavy TMs (Trench Mortars). The breastworks were breached in one or two places, one island (?) destroyed and big gaps were made in the wire. This bombardment commenced at 7.30am and continued with varying violence throughout the day.
(8pm) Enemy blew a mine in the GIVENCHY sector on our immediate right.
(8.15pm) Enemy commenced an intense bombardment of our trenches, lifting at 8.45 and forming intense barrages on the DBL(?) at 9.10 the enemy barrage dropped again to the front line. Hostile fire ceased before 9.30. Our artillery retaliation was effective and continued until 9.50pm. When barrage lifted enemy attempted to raid our trenches but failed to get in. He was thrown back leaving hatchet, wire cutter, bridges for getting over obstacles, 2 land mines and large quantity of bombs. Patrols in front of our wire were however unable to find any dead or wounded Germans.
Our total casualties throughout the whole day were only: Officers – 1 killed (2nd Lt Applebee T), 2 wounded (2nd Lts Lawrence and Cantell) and O.R. – 6 killed, 17 wounded.”
All the men killed that day are buried close proximity to each other across two rows in Plot IV of the cemetery. It appears that the War Diary entry was written at a later date as one of the 6 men who is listed as having been killed on 20th August is listed by CWGC as dying on 23rd August, and between his grave and the other men are the graves of men killed on 21st and 22nd August.
Between the time when their son was killed in France and when the names for the War Memorial were being submitted, Tom and Mary Atkinson moved from Lady Pit Lane to Rose Dene, York Road, Scholes.