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Alfred Atkinson was born in the last quarter of 1889 and his birth registered in Malton. He was the fourth son of Mark and Maria (nee Davison) Atkinson who married in Great Ouseburn in the second quarter of 1877.

In 1891 Mark and Maria Atkinson were living at 24 Castlegate with their seven children.  

1891 census – Resident at 24 Castlegate, Malton ATKINSON, Mark, Head, Married, M, 38, Mill Wright, Pickering  Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Maria, Wife, Married, F, 38, , Wintringham Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, William H, Son, , M, 13, Butchers Errand Boy, Rillington Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Arthur, Son, , M, 12, Scholar, Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Edith A, Daughter, , F, 9, Scholar, Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Fred, Son, , M, 6, Scholar, Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Lily, Daughter, , F, 3, , Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Alfred, Son, , M, 1, , Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Florence, Daughter, , F, 1 month , Malton Yorkshire,

Mark was then a Millwright but in 1901 he gives a more specialised occupation of Millwright Patternmaker.  The family was still at 24 Castlegate though some of the older children had left home.  Alfred was still at school but was also working as a Butcher Boy, presumably after school and at weekends.

1901 census – Resident at 24 Castlegate, Malton
ATKINSON, Mark, Head, Married, M, 48, Millwright Pattern Maker, Pickering Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Maria, Wife, Married, F, 48, , Wintringham Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, William H, Son, Single, M, 23, Stonemason, Rillington Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Lily, Daughter, Single, F, 13, Dressmaker, Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Alfred, Son, Single, M, 11, School Boy And Butcher Boy, Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Florence, Daughter, Single, F, 10, School Girl, Malton Yorkshire,
ATKINSON, Thomas, Son, Single, M, 7, School Boy, Malton Yorkshire,

 Mark died before 1911 but Maria stayed at 24 Castlegate with Alfred, Thomas and her mother.  Both sons were now working for a printer as compositors

1911 census – Resident at 24 Castlegate
ATKINSON, Maria, Head, Widow, F, 58, Charwoman, Yorks Wintringham,
ATKINSON, Alfred, Son, Single, M, 21, Printer Compositor Journeyman, Yorks Malton,
ATKINSON, Thomas Davison, Son, Single, M, 17, Printer Compositor Apprentice, Yorks Malton,
DAVISON, Eliza, Mother, Widow, F, 87, , Yorks Helmsley,
SMITH, John, Visitor, Widower, M, 78, No Occupation, Yorks South Dalton,

During the third quarter of 1916 Alfred married Mary Emily Wompra in the Malton area. A son, Eric, was born in the second quarter of 1917 and his birth registered in Malton.

Alfred enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment who were stationed on Guernsey at the outbreak of the war. They returned almost immediately to Southampton and were allocated to 21st Brigade of the 7th Division.

The 7th Division was formed during September and very early October 1914, by the bringing together of regular army units from various points around the British Empire. They were assembled in the New Forest in Hampshire before initially moved to Belgium. The Division landed at Zeebrugge in the first week of October 1914, ordered to assist in the defence of Antwerp. However, by the time they arrived the city was already falling and the 7th was instead ordered to hold certain important bridges and other places that would help the westward evacuation of the Belgian army. Once the Belgians were through, the Division was moved westwards, where the infantry entrenched in front of Ypres, the first British troops to occupy that fateful place.  The Division fought the advancing German army to a standstill at Wipers. All units suffered grievous losses, and it was not until the following January/February that it was once more in a complete enough condition to be considered at full fighting strength. After the First Battle of Ypres, it was often known as the "Immortal Seventh".

During 1915 the Division took part in the Battles of Neuve Chapelle,  Aubers,  Festubert and the second action of Givenchy. During the Battle of Loos, the Division took part in the initial assault north of the Vermelles-Hulluch road, facing the Quarries and a series of strongpoints. Suffering badly from British cloud gas - which was not moved sufficiently by the gentle breeze - and badly cut up by German machine gun fire and artillery, the Division nonethless seized the Quarries and only failed to penetrate the third German line due to the relative weakness of the numbers of men that got through.

At the end of 1915 the 21st Brigade was transferred to the newly-formed 30th Division when it arrived in Flanders. In 1916 they were on the Somme and took part in the Battle of Albert, capturing Montauban, in the subsequent fighting in Trones Wood and the Battle of the Transloy Ridges.

In 1917 they were involved in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line.  Subsequently they took part in the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe, near Arras, and The Battle of Pilkem Ridge, a phase of the Third Battle of Ypres.

At the beginning of 1918 the 2nd Battalion were ensconced in trenches and tunnels near Zillebecke a few miles South-east of Ypres.  The war diary shows a routine of drill, sports etc interspersed by crises such as a fire in the Battalion headquarters in Canada Street tunnel, and periodic moves. Other activities included the inter-Battalion football league (won by the 2nd Yorkshires) and building “elephants” (Corrugated-iron lined dugouts!).

March saw the Battalion moved to Etreillers, just west of St Quentin and to the front line. On the 21st March they came under heavy attack at Roupy and despite desperate efforts and heavy casualties, both sustained and inflicted, were forced to retreat. The rest of March saw the 2nd steadily withdrawing before the German forces, fighting a determined rearguard action until they were back to the Ypres area.  Early April saw them settling into routine again but by the 20th April they were back once again in the trenches and under attack both from heavy shelling and gas.  At the beginning of May the Battalion was sent west to Ouderdom where they sustained some casualties from enemy shelling before being sent to the front line at Voormezeele on 5th May.  The first couple of days were reasonably quiet but on the 7th the Battalion War Diary records “Enemy artillery very active, a considerable number of Gas Shells being used.” On the 8th May it continues “At 3.15 a.m. the enemy laid down an exceptionally heavy bombardment on our front line and Support trenches. This bombardment lasted four hours and the casualties were very heavy, the trenches being almost obliterated. At 7.15 a.m. the enemy launched his atttack in force against our front. O our right the French had withdrawn during the bombardment, and the enemy soon got round our Right Flank, surrounding the Right Company (“D”). At the same time he had penetrated our line about RIDGE WOOD and the Left Front Company (“A”) found itself attacked from all sides. The rmnants of this Coy., about 20 strong, retired to the Support Line. Except 2 or 3 stragglers none of the Right Company came back, but from information received later in the day from an enemy prisoner it is known that several were taken prisoners. The enemy’s objective was the RIDGE previously occupied by our Front Line, and, this having been gained no further attack developed. A Counter Attack was ordered to take place at 7.00 p.m. by 2 Battalions of the 19th Brigade. The 30th Composite Brigade (consisting of composite battalions formed by amalgamating the 2nd Yorkshires and the 17th and 19th Manchester Regiment) was to assist and go forward with the attack. The Battalion detailed for our front evidently lost its directionm and at 7.00 p.m. “B” company (Manchesters) and the remainder of “C” Company went forward and with 2 Companies of the 17th Kings Liverpool Regt. Counter attacked the old front line in conjunction with the troops on our Left and Right.  Our objectives were gained but at heavy cost, and when gained they could only be very thinly held. The enemy counter attacked about 9.00 p.m. and re-established himself in the front line. We continued to hold the Support Line until the early morning of the 9th, when the 2 remaining Companies of the King’s Liverpool Regt. Came up and we were withdrawn at 5.a.m. to ST LAWRENCE CAMP.  Casualties :- 9 officers & 264 Other Ranks.”

Among the casualties from this dreadful 26 hours was Alfred Atkinson.  He has no marked grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Alfred Atkinson