2nd Lieutenant Henry Noel ATKINSON D.S.O., M.i.D. (3rd Battalion) – Attached: ‘B’ Company Killed in Action: 22 October 1914
An Officer with “Two Graves”!
His father was 55 years old when Henry was born and seems to have married Ursula on 25th June 1884. This was her second marriage and she was 31 at the time of Henry’s birth. Arthur died on 24th October 1915; Ursula on 31st January 1928.
He was later educated at Moorland House, Heswall; Charterhouse School, Godalming, Surrey, where he was in the Cricket XI, and St John’s College, Cambridge. On 27 October 1908 Henry registered at Cambridge University School of Medicine
In his Will (Probate 1921) Henry left £2,977 1s 10d (£2977.09 – equivalent in value to about £190,000 today – 2023) to his mother, Ursula.
Henry served unscathed through the fighting at Audregnies, Le Cateau and The Aisne until 22nd October 1914, near La Bassée, at Violaines, 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.
“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.”
One must wonder, though, if Lt Atkinson’s DSO had anything to do with the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.) awarded to 7085 Private Frank McCarthy, 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 15th December 1914. Page 10786)
The Battalion War Diary for the 15th reads (in part): “MISSY – 6.00 a.m. Norfolks and Bedfords reinforced us in Missy and an attack was ordered on Chivres Hill after the guns had shelled the lower slopes. Before this could take place Missy was shelled by the very heavy artillery brought up for the siege of Paris.
The Battalion held on to all the defences of Missy till 6 p.m. when the Norfolks took over the Western half and there was a hot fire coming into the village from the woods on Chevres Hill all day. …”
Henry was promoted to Lieutenant on 2nd February 1915, but by this time – as his gravestone (right) clearly shows – he was long dead.
The 22nd October 1914 was a disastrous day in history of the 1st Battalion, The War Diary for that day reads:
“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. 8.00 p.m. Battalion withdrawn and went in bivouac at last E of RUE DE BETHUNE.
CAPTAIN MAHONY died in hospital. Lieut. T L Frost took over command of the Battalion.”
After the War, as no grave could be found, Lieut. 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“.
The inscription reads:
“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.”
Noel and his father are also commemorated on a stained glass panel in Chester Cathedral.
Lieutenant Atkinson is also commemorated on the Memorial in Audlem Village, Cheshire.