Menu ☰
Liverpool Pals header
Search Pals

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

Pte 52036 James Atherton

  • Age: 37
  • From: Liverpool
  • Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 19th Btn
  • K.I.A Monday 9th April 1917
  • Commemorated at: St Martin Calvaire Brit Cem
    Panel Ref: I.A.13

James Atherton was born in Liverpool on 07th April 1880 at 6 Mabb Lane near Deysbrook Lane, Liverpool to James Atherton a West Derby born Liverpool Council labourer  and his West Derby born wife Emily Jane (nee Eaves) who married at St Mary's Church, Edge Hill on 02nd October 1878. 

James was the first born of their 9 children 3 of whom died pre 1911 (John 1886 Ann 1890 John 1891 all dying in infancy during the same quarter of birth).James was Baptised at Church of England St Mary's Cof E Church, Edge Hill on 16th May 1880.

On the 1881 Census he appears as an 11 month old baby living with his widower granddad James and his parents at 6 Mabb Lane.

By 1891 Census he appears as 11 year old scholar living with his parents and siblings still at 6 Mabb Lane.

At the time of the 1901 Census he appears as 20 year old Road Pavior at his parents new address at 26 Highfield Rd West Derby.

In  the December Quarter of 1905saged 25 he marries Prescot born Mary Ellen Pye. On 13 September 1906 his first child of 3 a son Robert William Atherton is born. 
In 1908 his second child is born a Son named James but sadly he dies 11months later in August 1909.

On the 1911 Census he and his family are now at 16 Bolan Street off Green Lane Tuebrook he is a Liverpool Corporation Pavior. 
On 10th February 1914 his 3rd child a daughter Emily is born. 

He enlisted in Liverpool and was serving in the 19th Battalion, The King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private No 52036 when he was killed in action on the 9th April 1917 during the Battle of Scarpe on 9/04/1917 aged 37.

Details of the action of 09/04/1917: The First Battle of the Scarpe was set for Zero hour 5.30 a.m. amongst heavy snowfall during the 9th and 10th at 3 p.m the 19th Advance began

17th,  19th & 20th  Battalion at the  Battle of Arras 09th April 1917

Everard Wyrall records the events of the day  in Volume 2 of his History of the King's Regiment (Liverpool).

The 89th Brigade formed up for the attack with the 19th King's on the right and the 20th King’s on the left. The 17th King’s supplied the “mopping up" parties and he 2nd Bedfords were in close support.

It was just after 3pm when the advance began “According to scheduled time the waves advanced in good style and with determination; everyone was cheerful and in the best of spirits”

That advance is described by others as magnificent. From the OP’s the observing officers saw a wonderful sight – long lines of men advancing steadily up a long and gradual slope towards the enemy’ front line. Then suddenly they disappeared. The observers quite pardonably, imagined that the German front line had fallen into the hands of the assaulting troops and that the latter were on the way to the enemy’s support line. Alas something very different had happened. When the advancing troops had reached the summit of the long slope up which they advanced the ground suddenly dipped before the German front line , and when the observing officers thought they  were already in the Bosche lines they had not, as a matter of fact, even reached the wire. What the observers took to be the front line was really the support line; the front line could not be seen  - it lay just behind the crest of that slight rise in the ground.

The attacking waves of the 19th King’s got within 100 yards of the German wire but were then held up. They were faced by three belts of entanglements, practically untouched by our artillery, and nothing could be done but to dig in or else take shelter in the many shell- shell-with which “No Man’s Land" was pitted. By this time the battalion’s losses were very heavy, and when darkness fell “A" and “B" Companies (about 140 in all) lay in shell-holes, two or three hundred yards north east of St. Martin, but just south of the Cojeul River, and “C" and “D" Companies (140 all ranks) were along the river bank, but on the northern side about 150 yards north east of St. Martin.

The first waves of the 20th King’ advanced at 3.7pm. At 4pm Lieut Beaumont, commanding “A" Company, reported that he had had some forty casualties in passing through the enemy’s barrage. The next message, timed 4.40pm, stated that the position of the battalion at that period was on a crest in front of the enemy’s wire and about 100 yards from it. On the right the 21st Division was observed to have penetrated the enemy’s front line, but in the left the right Battalion of the 21st Brigade (the Wilts) was on the St. Martin- Neuville Vitasse road; the left flank of the 20th King's was, therefore, “ in the air”.

Urgent messages were sent up from Battalion Headquarters to “push on, keeping in touch with right” But little else could be accomplished until those formidable belts of wire had been cut sufficiently to allow the rapid passage of the attacking troops, headed by their bombers.

At 9:30 that night 89th Brigade Headquarters ordered both the 19th and 20th Battalions to withdraw, the former to the two sunken roads running south east from St. Martin, the latter to north west of St. Martin; the guns had been ordered to cut the enemy’s wire during the night in preparation for another attack during the 10th April.

Of the 17th King’s  - the “moppers up" – there is little to relate. There was nothing to “mop up" so that they did not function. Yet they had shared all the perils of the advance, and when  after they had fallen back and at midnight held the following positions, “B", “C", and “D" Companies in and around the sunken road north of Boiry-Becquerelle and “A" Company in trenches west of Henin, they lost 2 officers and 16 other ranks killed, and 3 officers and 48 other ranks wounded. 

James was one of those killed in action and he now rests at St Martin Calvaire British Cemetery, France.

His Army pay of £4 : 2s :11d was sent to his Widow Ellen on 15/06/1917 and a War Gratuity of £6 on 15/10/1919 to her at 45 St Ives Grove Old Swan
Pensions were set up for 16 years for son Robert William and daughter Emily.
His parents Inserted a Death Notice in the Liverpool Echo on 25th April 1917 and again on the 26th.
James' son Robert William Atherton became a Slaughterman. He joined the Royal Artillery and was captured by the Japanese upon the surrender of Singapore on 15th February 1942. His POW Card shows date of Capture = 17/02/15   which is the Japanese calendar. Year 17 being the 17th year of the Showa Dynasty of Emperor Hirohito; 2 = February and 15 = 15 th day. In our Western Calendar 17 = 1942 and 18 = 1943. They show his Death as 18/06/16  which is 16th June 1943.He died of Peritonitis, Dysentery, Malaria and Toxaemia in a Prisoner of War Camp in Thailand. 
His parents obviously worried about him ask about his whereabouts in an advert in the Liverpool Echo on 30/05/1942. A report in the Liverpool Echo on 24/07/1943 reports Sgt Robert Atherton of R.A. is alive and a POW. His mother died in November 1943 believing him to still be alive but a Prisoner.
On 22/06/1945 the Liverpool Echo report that Robert died 2 years previously as a POW
His mother Mary Ellen, tragically lost her husband and her son in two World Wars both buried abroad and unable to visit either military grave.