An Atcherley in Canada – Part 1

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Charles Hedley AtcherleyCanada Day seems a good time to look at the life of an Atcherley who made Canada his home.

Born on 21 September 1889 in Walsall, Staffordshire, Charles Hedley Atcherley was the second son of Thomas Cureton Atcherley and Anne Griffiths. He grew up with two older and two younger sisters, after his only brother (named Thomas Cureton Atcherley after his father) died when just 2 years of age. Along with older sisters Sarah Anne and Edith, and younger sister Florence Cureton, Charles (or Hedley as he was known to his family) was baptised at Bloxwich in Staffordshire on 14 March 1894. His youngest sister, Lilian Eunice, was born on 14 June the following year. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

Hedley’s father Thomas was for most of his life a Police Constable in Staffordshire, who had risen to the rank of Sergeant by the time of the 1911 census (when he was 51). Although Hedley chose to follow in his father’s footsteps, he did not do so by joining his local police force. Far from it. The passenger list for the Corsican, arriving at Montreal, Quebec, Canada on 26 April 1908 from Liverpool, England included a C Atcherley, aged 20, a grocer, born in England, destination Red Deer. Added above the word grocer were two more words showing the occupation the young immigrant was to pursue: Mounted Police. He joined the Royal North West Mounties on 24 May. [10, 11]

The 1911 census of Canada recorded Hedley in two different places: at the Mounted Police Barracks in Regina, Saskatchewan, and at the Royal North West Mounted Police Barracks in Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Alberta. His year of birth was recorded as 1887 on both census schedules – had he lied about his age in order to join the Mounties? [12]

1911 also saw Hedley make a return visit to England. The passenger list for the Montreal, arriving at London on 9 June 1911 from Montreal, Canada included a large contingent of RNWMP corporals and constables, including Constable Atcherley. They were to form the Mountie contingent for the coronation of King George V, acting as part of the King’s royal escort. [6, 9]

On 24 September 1914 Hedley enlisted with the Canadian Over-seas Expedition. His attestation paper, a copy of which can be viewed on the Library and Archives Canada website, shows that Charles Hedley Atcherley was 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a chest measurement of 37 inches, and that he had brown eyes, light hair and fair complexion. It also gave his date of birth as 21 September 1881, a discrepancy of 8 years. [6]

Hedley transferred from the Royal North West Mounted Police to the Fort Garry Horse Regiment, which had mobilised on 5 August 1914 and had moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Valcartier, Quebec on 30 August, where it became part of the 6th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. The photograph above shows Hedley in his uniform. Notes written in pencil on the back of the photo record that he was at the Somme, and also describe two wartime incidents. The first was Hedley fell asleep in a shell hole while on guard duty in No Man’s Land; he claimed that he had heard noises and had remained to investigate until dawn. The second incident involved Hedley wearing an armband in order to get out of his camp for a “nite on the town,” an infraction which saw him sentenced to parade ground drilling with a knapsack full of sand. However an officer discovered that the knapsack was actually filled with straw! [13, 14]

The notes on the back of Hedley’s photo also make reference to another wartime incident which took place in 1916, and which is described in more detail on the Fort Garry Horse website (the information having been taken from the London Gazette [15]):

During an attack upon four lines of enemy defences, he pushed forward into our barrage and destroyed the enemy’s wire, took his party through the gap and established a block in the enemy trench to prevent counter-attack. His prompt and gallant action ensured a rapid passage of our main body into the enemy’s trench, and undoubtedly saved many casualties, as the enemy’s barrage opened on the wire immediately after our attacking party had entered the trench.

For his “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” when in charge of the torpedo party, Lance-Corporal Charles Hedley Atcherley was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. According to the notes on the back of his photograph, he was also granted a period of special leave to England to see his wife, Ethel. Hedley had married Ethel Marion Heather in 1914. The birth of the couple’s first child, Marigold Atcherley, was registered at Walsall in Staffordshire in the third quarter of 1916. Sadly, Marigold’s death was registered there in the same quarter. [1, 2, 7, 13, 15, 16]

A touching memento of Hedley’s wartime service can be found on the Memory Project website, which contains a small image and a transcription of a postcard that he sent to his wife Ethel. Hedley wrote [17]:

To My darling Wife,
I think it should be “happier returns” sweetheart. I love you still more today and more as the days go on dear. I ask God to grant us the happiness there was on our first day, this day one year ago.
Love Hedley XXXXX

> On to Part 2


References

[1] General Register Office, index of births. Birth of Charles Hedley Atcherley registered at Walsall, December quarter 1889; volume 6b, page 659. Birth of Thomas Cureton Atcherley registered at Corwen, March quarter 1886; volume 11b, page 331. Birth of Marigold Atcherley registered at Walsall, September quarter 1916; volume 6b, page 1276; mother’s maiden name Heather.
[2] General Register Office, index of deaths. Death of Thomas Cureton Atcherley registered at Walsall, September quarter 1888; volume 6b, page 330; age given as 2. Death of Marigold Atcherley registered at Walsall, September quarter 1916; volume 6b, page 646; age given as 0.
[3] The National Archives, Census of England and Wales 1891.
[4] The National Archives, Census of England and Wales 1901.
[5] Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, accession 1992-93/166, box 179 – 18 (attestation paper for 14445 Lt Charles Hedley Atcherley). Date of birth shown as 21 Sep 1881.
[6] Anon (approx 1968), Eighty years or more. In: The Review (Niagara Falls).
[7] FamilySearch, England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, batch # I03130-4, source film # 1278869, reference # item 12 page 118.
[8] Findmypast.co.uk: Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960. (Original data: The National Archives, Outbound Passenger Lists, series BT27.) Passenger list for Empress of Britain, departing Liverpool, England on 1 Jun 1956 for Montréal, Canada (shows Lilian Atcherley, born 14.6.95).
[9] Ancestry.com: UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960. (Original data: The National Archives, Inwards Passenger Lists, series BT26.) Passenger list for the Montreal, arriving at London on 9 June 1911 from Montreal, Canada. Passenger list for Empress of Scotland, arriving Liverpool, England 23 Jul 1956 from Montréal, Canada (shows Lilian E Atcherley, born 14.6.95).
[10] The National Archives, Census of England and Wales 1911.
[11] Ancestry.com: Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935. (Original data: Library and Archives Canada, RG 76-C, Passenger Lists, 1865–1935.) Passenger list for the Corsican, arriving at Montreal, Quebec, Canada on 26 April 1908.
[12] Ancestry.com: 1911 Census of Canada. (Original data: Library and Archives Canada, Census of Canada, 1911, RG31-C-1.)
[13] Anon (date unknown), photograph of Charles Hedley Atcherley taken during World War One, with notes on reverse.
[14] Fort Garry Horse Regiment website.
[15] London Gazette, issue 30287, 17 Sep 1917, pages 9601-9602.
[16] Ontario Genealogical Society Provincial Index.
[17] the Memory Project website.


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