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William Henry Atkinson was born in Walkden and was the son of Henry Atkinson b.1873, a carter, and Sarah Ann Atkinson née Bullis b.1876.

He appears on the 1901 Census (listed as Harry) living at 67 Old Hall Street, Kearsley with his mother in the household of her father, William Bullis. His father was living as a boarder at 1 Shiel Street, Worsley on the night of the Census.

In 1911 he was living at 5 Walton Place, Kearsley (listed as Henry this time) with his parents and younger siblings Annie b.1905, Gladys b.1906, James b.1908 and Hildab.1910. Three other children – Thomas, Sarah and Harold – are (accidentaly) named on the Census return as having died by this point.

William attended Queen Street Council school and as a boy sold the Bolton Evening News and Farnworth Journal. Before the war he worked as a carter for Joseph Bridge JP, a builder in Walkden.

When he enlisted in Farnworth on 29th August 1914 and lied about his age claiming to be several months over 18, but was in fact a little over 15. He was described as a ‘big strapping youth’.

His Army medical examination on enlisting described him as being 5′ 4½” tall, weighing 114 lbs with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. His father’s address at the time was given as 11 Swift Street, Farnworth and later as 3 Markland Square.

He was charged with a couple of minor disciplinary offences while undergoing training – causing a disturbance at Tidworth barracks and going AWOL from Blackburn for a week in April 1915 before turning himself in. He may well have unilaterally extended a last visit home.

William sailed to Gallipoli with the 6th Battalion in June 1915 and was killed in action at Chunuk Bair on 10th August 1915.

The official despatch states;

“The two battalions of the New Army chosen to hold Chunuk Bair were the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The first of these arrived in good time and occupied the trenches. Even in the darkness their commanding officer, Lieut-Colonel H.G. Levinge, recognized how dangerously these trenches were sited, and he began at once to dig observation posts on the actual crest and to strengthen the defences where he could; but he had not time given him to do much.

The second battalion, the Wiltshires, were delayed by the intricate country; they did not reach the edge of the entrenchment until 4am, and were then told to lie down in what was believed, erroneously, to be a covered position. At daybreak on Tuesday 10th August, the Turks delivered a grand attack from the Chunuk Bair Hill-Q against these two battalions, already weakened in numbers, though not in spirit, by previous fighting.

First our men were shelled by every enemy gun, and then, at 5.30am, were assaulted by a huge column consisting of no less than a full division, plus a regiment of three battalions.

The Loyal North Lancashire men were simply overwhelmed in their shallow trenches by sheer weight in numbers, whilst the Wiltshires who were caught in the open, were literally almost annihilated. The ponderous mass of enemy swept over the crest, turned the right flank of our line below, swarmed round the Hampshires and General Baldwin’s column, which had to which had to give ground and were only extricated with great difficulty and very heavy losses.

Towards this supreme struggle the absolute last two battalions from our general reserve were now hurried, but by 10am, the effort of the enemy was spent. Soon their shattered remnants began to trickle back, leaving a track of corpses behind them, and by nightfall, except prisoners or wounded, no live Turk was left upon our side of the slope.”

His name appears on both the Helles Memorial and Farnworth War Memorial.

HELLES MEMORIAL

THE HELLES MEMORIAL

Rank: Private
Service No: 14085
Date of Death: 10/08/1915
Age: 17
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Memorial: HELLES MEMORIAL

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This article has been reproduced with kind permission from the DBBC young roots heritage project. The young people identified and researched the the servicemen pictured in a 1916 Bolton Journal and Guardian supplement who were killed at Gallipoli. You can visit their website by clicking on the DBBC logo.
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