The AIF Project

Russell ATKINSON

Regimental number4431
Place of birthWilcannia, New South Wales
SchoolWaratah Public School, New South Wales
ReligionChurch of England
OccupationHairdresser
AddressWebster Street, Hamilton, Newcastle, New South Wales
Marital statusMarried
Age at embarkation22
Height5' 7"
Weight131 lbs
Next of kinWife, Mrs D Atkinson, Webster Street, Hamilton, Newcastle, New South Wales
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date31 July 1915
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll28 July 1915
Place of enlistmentNewcastle, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name13th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/30/4
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A70 Ballarat on 16 December 1916
Rank from Nominal RollCorporal
Unit from Nominal Roll54th Battalion
FateKilled in Action 28 October 1916
Place of death or woundingFrance
Age at death22
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
158
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Name recorded on Office of War Graves Register as Russell Victor Marrilean ATKINSON.
Other details

War service: Western Front

Court of Enquiry, 4 June 1917, found him to be illegally absent as from 28 November 1916, and he was deemed ineligible as a deserter for war medals.

A concerted campaign by his wife to have his name cleared resulted, on 29 May 1932, in Base Records, Melbourne, writing to inform her that the Minister for Defence had approved Atkinson being officially listed as killed in action, 28 October 1916. His medals were subsequently restored and his name was added to the Australian Memorial, Villers Bretonneux.

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, ATKINSON Russell

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