Menu ☰
Liverpool Pals header
Search Pals

Search
Capt Arthur de Bells Adam (MC)
1885 - 1916


CPL David Wallace Crawford
1887 - 1916


Lce-Corpl John Joseph Nickle
1894 - 1916


Pte 17911 Morton Neill
1897 - 1916


Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft
1883 - 1918
Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft

Lieutenant Francis Wright Atherton (MC)


  • Age: 21
  • From: Alexandria, Egypt
  • Regiment: Royal Air Force
  • Died on Wednesday 15th May 1918
  • Commemorated at: Basra Memorial
    Panel Ref: P 43 & 64

Francis Wright Atherton was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 10th February 1897 (Sedburgh School records) the son of Francis Christopher Atherton a cotton merchant born in 1868 in West Derby, Liverpool and his wife Annie Wright also born in 1868. They married in Liverpool on 9th August 1893. 

There is no trace of the family on the 1901 Census.

The 1911 Census finds Frank aged 14 and a schoolboy living with his mother Annie at 30 Victoria Drive, West Kirby. His mother is shown as the head of the household, she is  44 years old and living on non-private means. She advises that she has been married for 17 years and has had two children both of whom have survived. Frank is shown as British by parentage.

Frank was educated at Kingsmead School in Hoylake and at Sedburgh School in Cumbria from 1911 -1913. The school records show that Frank was a promising footballer in his early teens but left too early to represent the first XV. He was however a forward for the Under 16's (Colts) and the House XV (School House). 

Frank Wright Atherton enlisted at St George's Hall, Liverpool when he joined the 19th Battalion of The King's Liverpool Regiment as Private 17780 on 4th September 1914. Like so many of his contemporaries he gave a false age as 19 years and 206 days. He was in fact only 17 years of age. Service records show that he stated that he was a student. He is described as being 5’ 6¼” tall, weighed 130 pounds and had a 32” chest  and had a brown complexion, brown hair and grey eyes.

He was promoted to the rank of Corporal on 19th September 1914 and his service in the OTC at Sedburgh stood him in good stead as he was subsequently commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery on 18th February 1915. On 6th November 1915 he went to France and served with “A” Battery, 148th Brigade, RFA.

He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions at Montauban on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme 01st July 1916. A day in which his former Battalion took part in the succesful capture of Montauban, one of relatively few successes on the worst day in the history of the British Army.

The award of his M.C. was gazetted in the London Gazette on 26th September:

For Conspicuous Gallantry which involved observing fire solidly for 30 hours whilst under enemy shell-fire and at intervals … moving to and fro repairing telephone cables. It was largely due to his pluck that communications were maintained. He was described as being the “heart and soul of his battery”.

The Liverpool Daily Post reported the award on 3rd Oct 1916

WEST KIRBY OFFICER HONOURED

Temporary Lieutenant Francis Wright Atherton RFA, Park Road, West Kirby, was awarded the Military Cross as mentioned in issue of the 26th inst. Educated at Sedbergh, he joined the new army and received his commission at 17. In his 18th year he was promoted to First Lieutenant and at 19 was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery in the field.

“He observed fire for 30 hours during which he was under heavy enemy shellfire. At intervals he moved to and fro repairing telephone wires it was largely due to his pluck that communications were maintained.”

The West Kirby News, featured a description from one of his men describing him as – “a champion and simply adored by his men. But mind you, he’s mighty keen, in love with his work and he likes us to be the same.”

Frank was wounded soon after and he returned to the UK for treatment.

Upon his recovery he returned to France and served for a further eight months with the Royal Field Artillery.  Then at his own request, he transferred to the Royal Air Force serving with 30 Squadron. He was shot down and killed on 15th May 1918 while fighting three enemy planes in Mesopotamia. He was an Observer, flying with Lieutenant John Oliver Allison of the Canadian Infantry who was seconded to 30 Squadron RAF at the time they were killed. According to website "Sky The Battlefield" the aircraft he was flying in as an observer was an RE8 No. B5872 flying from Kirkkuk. The engaged enemy were named as Hpt. H. Schuz and Ltn. H. Kunz.

Frank has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.

His death was reported in the Birkenhead News on 15th June 1918

WEST KIRBY FLYING OFFICER KILLED

"The death in action is announced of Lieutenant Francis Wright Atherton MC at the age of 21. Lieutenant Atherton was educated at Sedbergh. In August 1914 he joined the new army and in the following year he received the commission in the RFA, being subsequently promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and at the age of 19 he was awarded in 1915 the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery in the field. Subsequently Lieutenant Atherton was invalided home but after his recovery was again sent abroad and served in the RFA for a further 8 months. He was then, at his own request transferred to the RAF, and after 3 months therein, while still on the threshold of manhood, he has made the greatest sacrifice in one of the theatres of war. He resided in West Kirby."

Soldiers Effects has no legatee, Pension to mother Annie.

Probate records show that his mother was awarded his estate:

ATHERTON Francis Wright of 13 Park Road, West Kirby, Cheshire M.C. Lieutenant Royal Air Force died 15 May 1918 at Basra, Mesopotamia. Administration (with Will limited) Chester 03rd October 1919 to Annie Atherton (wife of Francis Christopher  Atherton) effects £290 8s. 

The Birkenhead News of 03rd March 1920 reported the unveiling of a Memorial upon which Frank's name was reocrded:

MEMORIAL UNVEILED

On Thursday evening last, a memorial tablet was unveiled at the Parish Church, West Kirby, by the Reverend Canon Blencowe, to the memory of parishioners who have fallen in the war. Special hymns and prayers we used, and the lessons were read by the Rev. W. Hollowell, M.A., and the Rev. H.J. Dodd. The memorial tablet is inscribed "To the Glory of God and the memory of the men of the parish who, at the call of duty, served in The Great War 1914-19, and laid down their lives for King and country in the cause of freedom and right."  It also bears the words "Eternal rest, O Lord, grant unto them; and let light perpetual shine upon them."

The service was largely attended by relatives of the fallen, a portion of the church being specially reserved for them. The names of the dead are carved in four panels as follows:-

...., Francis Wright Atherton,...

Francis is also commemorated on the following Memorials

West Kirby Tablet

Church of the Good Shepherd, West Derby, Liverpool

He features in the Royal Artillery War Commemoration Book and also in the Airmen Died in the Great War publication.