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
Pte 16792 William John Atherton
- Age: 20
- From: Toxteth Liverpool
- Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 18th Btn
- K.I.A Saturday 1st July 1916
- Commemorated at: Thiepval Memorial
Panel Ref: P&F1D8B &8 C.
16792 Private William John ATHERTON, 18th Battalion KLR.
William Atherton was born in Liverpool 1896, the elder of two sons of William, a Constable in the Liverpool City Police born in Whiston, and his wife Elizabeth Agnes nee Holland, whom he married in 1891.
In 1901 William and Elizabeth lived with their two children, Mabel aged 8 years and William John aged 5 years, at 16, South Grove, Toxteth.
In 1911, his father now being shown as a Police Sergeant, William John now 15 and described as an office boy, lived with his parents, Mabel now 18 and shown as a telephone operator and a younger brother, Harry James aged 9 years, at 70 Albert Edward Road, Kensington, Liverpool.
William enlisted at St George's Hall in Liverpool on the 03rd September 1914, at Liverpool, giving his age as 19 years 30 days, and his occupation as clerk and his next of kin as his father, who was residing at 70 Albert Edward Road.
From the 23rd September 1914 he was billeted at Hooton Park Race Course and remained there until 03rd December 1914 when they moved into the hutted accommodation at Lord Derby’s estate at Knowsley Hall. On 30th April 1915 the 18th Battalion alongside the other three Pals battalions left Liverpool via Prescot Station for further training at Belton Park, Grantham. They remained here until September 1915 when they reached Larkhill Camp on Salisbury Plain.
After training William crossed to France with his Battalion on board SS Invicta arriving in Boulogne on 07th November 1915.
It is known he was attached to 201 Field Company Royal Engineers between 15 and 30 April 1916. He returned to the 18th Battalion and was killed in action with No 3 Company during the attack at Montauban on the 01st July 1916 the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The Battalion diary gives an insight into the action:
At 6.30am the artillery commenced an intensive bombardment of the enemy’s trenches. Zero Hour – 7.30 am – the battalion commenced to leave their trenches and the attack commenced. The attack was pressed with great spirit and determination in spite of heavy shelling and machine gun enfilade fire which caused casualties amounting to 2/3rds of the strength of the Battalion in action. The whole system of German trenches including the Glatz Redoubt was captured without any deviation from the scheduled programme. Consolidated positions and made strong points for defence against possible counter attacks.
Graham Maddocks provides more detail concerning the events of the day:
As the first three waves began to move forward towards the German reserve line, known as Alt Trench and then on to the Glatz Redoubt itself, they suddenly came under enfilading fire from the left. This was from a machine gun which the Germans had sited at a strong point in Alt Trench. The gun itself was protected by a party of snipers and bombers, who, hidden in a rough hedge, were dug into a position in Alt Trench, at its junction with a communication trench known as Alt Alley. These bombers and snipers were themselves protected by rifle fire from another communication trench, Train Alley which snaked back up the high ground and into Montauban itself. The machine gun fire was devastating and it is certain that nearly of the Battalion’s casualties that day were caused by that one gun.
Lieutenant Colonel Edward Henry Trotter wrote in the conclusion of his account of the days action:
I cannot speak to highly of the gallantry of the Officers and men. The men amply repaid the care and kindness of their Company Officers, who have always tried to lead and not to drive. As laid down in my first lecture to the Battalion when formed, in the words of Prince Kraft:
“Men follow their Officers not from fear, but from love of the Regiment where everything had always and at all times gone well with them”.
Joe Devereux in his book A Singular Day on the Somme gives the Casualty Breakdown for the 18th Battalion as Killed in Action 7 Officers and 165 men and of those who died in consequence of the wounds 3 Officers and 19 men a total of 194 out of a total loss for the four Liverpool Pals Battalions of 257.
William has no known grave is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.
He is also commemorated on the war memorial in St Cyprian with Christ Church, Durning Road, Liverpool.
Having served in France from 7th November 1915, William earned his three medals
On 1st April 1919, his father claimed entitlement to the memorial scroll, plaque and medals, still living at 70 Albert Edward Road. The CWGC site shows that his family then moved to 20 Talbotville Road, Broadgreen.