Ernest Atkins was born in Abbots Langley on 9th September 1891. He was the youngest of four sons and five daughters born to Shadrick and Mary Atkins. In the 1901 Census the family lived in Breakspeare Road, Abbots Langley. Shadrick worked as a Hay Binder. By the time of the 1911 Census, Ernest was living in Itchen Abbas, Martyr Worthy, near Alresford and was working as a Gardener Domestic at Itchen House.
The National Roll of Honour records that he volunteered in October 1915, and after a period of training proceeded to the Western Front, where he took part in various important engagements, including those of the Somme and Ypres. However he is not listed as serving in the Abbots Langley Parish Magazine Roll of Honour until January 1917, and as Vicar Parnell records in the January 1918 edition of the Parish Magazine, “that he had only been at the Front a short time”, it seems that the National Roll of Honour may be inaccurate.
In the January 1917 entry Ernest is listed in the Abbots Langley Parish Magazine Roll of Honour as serving with the Suffolk Regiment, and it is not known when he transferred to the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers.
However the National Roll of Honour also recorded that “he was ‘Killed in Action’ on 1st December 1917 at Bourlon Wood’. Again this information must be treated with care, because between 30th November and 3rd December 1917 the War Diary of the 16th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers records that they were in action in the Front Line at Turco Farm in the Ypres Salient. It is believed that Ernest died in this action as he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Ypres. Bourlon Wood is some 60 miles further south and it is unlikely that he would have died there and be commemorated at Tyne Cot.
The 16th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers was a “Pals” Battalion, raised in Newcastle. A good proportion of the Newcastle football team joined the Battalion in 1914, including their star player ‘Tommy’ Thompson (also known as ‘the Hero of the Leazes End’), who was a platoon sergeant and was killed at the head of his men fighting on the Somme.
The January 1918 edition of the Abbots Langley Parish Magazine records :
“Another loss that we have to deplore is that of Private Ernest Atkins, one of our old Choir Boys and C.L.B Lads. One of the happiest and most cheery of beings, he was loved by all who knew him. He was the youngest son of Mr and Ms Shadrech (sic) Atkins, and had only been at the Front a short time. He was in the 16th Northumberland Fusiliers, and was killed in action on 1st December”
Ernest’s brother, William served and survived the War. His cousins Arthur, Henry, Frank, and Leonard all served in the Great War. Leonard was “Killed in Action” on 26th September 1916 on the Somme, but the other cousins all survived the War. His brother in law, Thomas Quarman, who had married his sister Annie, survived the War.
Ernest Atkins is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Ypres, Belgium, and also on the Abbots Langley War Memorial.