Reginald John Atkinson was born at Bowness-on-Solway, a small fishing/farming community, which is twelve miles west of Carlisle. His father Thomas was the local schoolmaster. Reginald was the youngest of Thomas and Mary’s five children. When Reginald was six months old his brother Thomas died in an outbreak of measles.
Thomas and Mary had married at Darlington in 1881, Thomas’s family were from County Durham and Mary’s from Manfield, Yorkshire. They moved to the Bowness area when Thomas was appointed headteacher of Anthorn School and later of Bowness School so they moved to the village and lived there for over thirty years. Thomas was a meticulous keeper of school records and even records the death of his son. He shut the school for several days when Reginald died.
Teaching was part of the Atkinson family’s way of life Reginald became a pupil teacher at Bowness, and an assistant teacher at Burgh by Sands School, and his sisters and brother also taught.
Reginald and his brother Gerald both attended Carlisle grammar school. Reginald then remained at the grammar school in the pupil teacher’s class, gaining teaching experience as a pupil teacher at Bowness, and Burgh by Sands School; he finally left the grammar school in July 1916. He had completed his pupil teacher course, passing the senior Cambridge local examination, thus qualifying for college. However he enlisted and was dead within a year.
Reginald enlisted in October 1916 and went to London. Writing to his sister Mabel that he was not impressed by the big city and commenting on how dirty it was. He also ran out of money and asked her to send him some!
He was killed on sentry duty in a front line trench, on June 3 1917 and is buried at the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres.
A letter written by one of his comrades to Reginald’s parents was quoted in his obituary in The Cumberland News ( June 16 1917)
“We have lost a good soldier and a good pal. Reg. was well liked by all the boys and was a good Lewis gunner.”