Alfred Edwin ATKIN
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 242073
Unit: 1/5th Battalion SEAFORTH HIGHLANDERS
Date of Death: 12 October 1918
Age: 28
Cemetery: Avesnes-le-Sec Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France

Alfred was born in York in the early part of 1889, the son of Alfred Atkin (a labourer in a glass works) and Margaret. The family was still living in the city in 1901 when a national census was taken. Shortly after that, probably in 1902 or 1903, Alfred joined the Seaforths as a boy soldier. It’s not known when the family moved to the Stockport area but, in the early 1920s, they were living at 102 Newbridge Lane.

When War was declared on 4 August 1914, Alfred was still a regular soldier and was with the 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth’s at Shornecliffe. The Battalion, part of 4th Division, was rushed to France and took part in the Battle of Le Cateau on 26 August. Alfred’s early service meant he would have been regarded as one of the “Old Contemptibles”.

At some point he was possibly wounded or otherwise away from his unit due to sickness. When he had recovered, the 1/5th Battalion will have been in greater need of replacements and he was transferred to it as part of a draft of replacements in November 1916.

At some time, between 20 July and 30 July 1918, Alfred undertook an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Military Medal. The award was published in the London Gazette in a supplement to the edition of 10 December 1918. Details of the individual acts are not recorded for the Medal, but between these dates, the Battalion was attacking German positions south west of the French city of Reims in the Champagne area. There is a mention, in the Battalion History, that on the 23rd, “C” and “D” Companies moved forward to attack and “were met with heavy enfilade machine-gun fire, but this was speedily overcome, six machine guns being captured and their crews either killed or made prisoners.” To attack and overcome several machine guns would have taken bravery and determination on the part of a not inconsiderable number of men and it is the sort of action for which medals would be awarded.

On 12 October, the Battalion was again preparing to attack – this time east of Avesnes-le-Sec (between the French towns of Valenciennes and Canbrai). At midday, the British artillery barrage opened on the German lines and the infantry attacked 10 minutes later. Within 2 hours all the objectives had been secured. Alfred was one of 18 members of his Battalion to be killed.

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