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200880-corporal-joseph-atherton-mmJoseph Atherton was born on the 10th March 1897 to John William and Agnes Atherton (nee Bradley). His parents married in Preston in 1882 and later information states that they had 15 children including Joseph, 13 of whom survived; Thomas Francis (1883), Jane (1884), Walter (1886), William (1888), John William (1889), Charles (1891), Mary (1894), James (1895), Cicely (1900), Robert (1901), Albert Edward (1903) and Elizabeth (1905).

John William Atherton was a wheelwright by trade and in 1901 the family lived at 41 Aberdeen Street in Preston. Sadly, Joseph`s mother passed away aged 44 years in 1909 and by 1911 the family had moved to 75 Hopwood Street. Joseph`s father was now a rag merchant, his elder brother John was a warehouseman, Charles an engineer’s apprentice and James was a cotton weaver. His 17 year old sister Mary was keeping house for the family and Joseph was an errand boy.

Joseph was just seventeen and a half years old when he attested into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on the 26th October 1914. Unfortunately his service papers no longer exist but we know that he was initially given the service number 3054 which in January 1917 would become 200880 when the Territorial Force was renumbered. Although there is no information on Joseph`s embarkation date, it’s very likely he sailed to France with the 2/4th Battalion in February 1917.

The 2/4th Battalion arrived in France on the 8th February 1917 coming under the command of the 170th Brigade of 57th (2nd West Lancashire) Division. By April 1917 Joseph had reached the rank of Lance Corporal and later in the same month he was recommended for the award of a Military Medal for “gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field” on the 20th April 1917.

Extract from Battalion War Diary – 20th April 1917

“A patrol of 2 Officers (LIEUTENANT FAIRCLOUGH and LIEUTENANT JUMP) and five men, out on special reconnoitring were overtaken by daylight and experienced great difficulty in regaining the lines. Heavy fire was brought to bear on them by the enemy and two men were killed, it was thought they were only wounded, so a rescue party of Lieutenant Kay and three men immediately went out to bring them in. A very heavy fire was put on by the enemy and one man was killed going out. Lieutenant Kay and one man succeeded in reaching the men only to find that they were dead. Lieutenant Kay was wounded in the foot and was helped back to safety by No. 200880 Lance Corporal Atherton who covered the Officer the whole of the way back. This N.C.O. has been awarded the MILITARY MEDAL”.

News of his award reached home and one of the local papers, the Preston Herald published a brief report on the 9th June 1917.


“The Military Medal has been awarded to Lance Corporal Joseph Atherton, 2/4th Loyal North Lancs. for bravery in action. He has received a card from Lieutenant-General commanding the 57th Division, in which he says “I have read with great pleasure reports from your Commanding Officer and Brigade Commander, and congratulate you on your gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field on the 20th April 1917 near Cordonnerie”.

He is 19 years of age and his home is in Livesey Street, Preston. Atherton has five brothers serving King and Country. They are Corporal T.F. Atherton (R.A.M.C.), Pte Walter Atherton (1/4th LNL), Charles Atherton (H.M.S. Royal Sovereign), and Private William Atherton (Black Watch Regt.)”.

Joseph survived the war and was finally discharged on the 29th August 1919. Upon discharge he was issued with Silver War Badge (wounds) number B261565. As well as his Military Medal, Joseph, for his war service also received the British War and Victory Medals.

In the September quarter of 1926 he married Annie Parker in Preston and the couple went on to have their own family. In 1939 Joseph and Annie lived at “Priorsfield”, Tag Lane in Ingol, Preston and Joseph`s occupation was a textile engineer.

Joseph`s wife Annie died in 1974 and Joseph outlived her by four years, he died on 21st October 1978 aged 81 years, his home address was 406 Tag Lane in Ingol, Preston.

Janet Davis
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2 Responses to 200880 CPL. J. ATHERTON. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Stewart Whitehead says:

    Have just read the post on Joe Atherton 200880 and am proud to say he won the MM in the same action that took the life of my grandfather William Henry Burrell, L/Cpl 200733. I met Joe Atherton in 1960, he made some bushings for my first motor bike when it failed the MoT. I knew he knew my grandfather but was unaware at the time of his MM.

  2. David Whitehead says:

    In a letter from Sgt Parkes to his mother, he records the events that lead up to the award of the Military Medal to Joseph Atherton. In the letter he states that the attempt to recover the bodies of the suspected wounded was initiated by Lance Corporal William Harold (Harry) Burrell, who went over the top first, and who was then followed by Lieutenant Kay.
    L/Cpl Burrell was killed on the way back, (not on the way out as recorded in the citation.)
    Sgt Parkes volunteered to recover L/Cpl W.H.Burrell’s body, and did so successfully. He then records the burial of the body behind the lines in a field grave.
    L/Cpl Burrell left a widow Margaret Ann Burrell and two children Hilda (Mary) Burrell, and a son Albert Burrell.
    W.H Burrell was my Grandfather, and in company with other family members we will be visiting his final resting place at Rue Petillon Military Cemetary on the 100th Anniversary of his death 20th April 2017
    The letter of Sergeant Parkes to his mother was submitted to the National Archives at The Loyal North Lancs Museum in Preston, but do not appear to have been published.

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