Joseph was born on 15 June 1897, the son of Robert and Julia (nee Preece), in the Islington area of London. The 1901 Census finds the family living in Whitechapel where Robert worked for the Government as customs official. It was probably his work which would later bring the family to Stockport where they lived at Piccadilly. As well as 3 year old Joseph, there were four other children – Emily (then 13), Jessie (11), Leo (6) and Mary (11 months).
Nothing else is known of Joseph’s life except that he joined the Navy in January 1913. He died when his ship was sunk at the Battle of Jutland.
The Cheshire Daily Echo, in its edition of 9 June 1916, reported that Joseph’s brother (described only as Corporal G Atherton) had said “I, as a soldier, who has (sic) fought from the outbreak of War for the honour of the British Army and the safety of the motherland, hope this will be a lesson and the men of Stockport who have hung back, while those daring heroes have fought to the last. Only six weeks ago, after the naval battle at (deleted by censor) he was in Stockport on short leave and now he’s at the bottom of the sea. Thank God, we have a nation of men who will fight to the last minute for the honour of old England.”
The Stockport Express, on 15 June, published two “In Memoriam” notices. One was from the family. The other was from Jennie, who was obviously very close to Joseph, as it read:-
“Some day we hope to meet again
Some day we know not when
To clasp your hand in the better land
Never to part again”
Robert Atherton is believed to have died by the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information. Julia had returned to London and was living at 19 Royal Mint Square.