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James Atkinson was born on the 9th January 1875 and was the son of William and Agnes Atkinson, a Roman Catholic couple from Wigan.

In 1881 James and his mother and father were living with his paternal grandmother, Alice, at 2 Dobson’s Yard, Wigan. By 1891 he had three younger brothers (Joseph, Peter and William) and the family were all living at 24a Bottom Croft, Wigan. Ten years later, 1901 the four boys were still at home and working, like their father, in the coal mines; they were now all living at 2 Waddington’s Buildings, Clayton Street. James had married Mary Ann (nee Kearns) on 13th February 1899 at St. Joseph’s church and she was living with them too.

By 1914 James and Mary Ann hadn’t had any children and were living at 12 Wood Street, Wigan – still under his father’s roof.

James enlisted into the Army as a Special Reservist on 1st September 1914 at Warrington. He had previously served in the 5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers as a reservist but had by now become time expired. At the time of his re-enlistment in 1914 he was 39 years old.

The medical officer described James as being 5ft 4.5in tall, weighing 147lbs with a 38.5in chest. He had blue eyes, brown hair and a scar on the right side of his chin.

As with all Special Reservists joining at that time, James was posted into the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion who had recently relocated to Felixstowe. Most of these SR men would be sailing to France to join the 1st Battalion in the field at the end of November 1914 however James wouldn’t be going with them. As of 14th November 1914 he had been under arrest and awaiting trial by District Court Martial for ‘when on active service leaving his guard without orders from his superior’ – of which he was found guilty on 21st November and sentenced to 42 days detention. His fellow SR men left for France on 29th November.

It is unclear what happened to James Atkinson after that, but he didn’t make it to France. The next note we have is him being discharged on 10th June 1916 being no longer physically fit for war service, due to an eye injury causing opacity of the vitreous humor. The injury had occurred prior to him joining, but was getting worse, he also stated he had lumbago. At the time of discharge his character was noted as being ‘bad’.

Less than two months after being discharged, James Atkinson died in a Wigan hospital. He was 41 years old and buried in Wigan cemetery where the CWGC later erected a headstone in his honour.


Photo courtesy of John Barton – November 2015

His wife Mary Ann Atkinson soon after moved to 1, Ashton’s Yard, Chapel Lane, Wigan.

Rank: Private
Service No: 3401
Date of Death: 03/08/1916
Age: 41
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “B” Coy. 3rd Bn

Paul McCormick
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