This is the second in the series on the men who rang in the officers’ peals of 1919. This post is about the man who rang the second bell in the original attempt at Putney, and conducted all three attempts.
Maurice (as he was usually known) was the son, nephew, and grandson of clergymen. He was born in Leicester on 11 July 1890, the son of Edward James Atkins and Edith May Atkins (it’s not clear if his parents were related to each other). His father then had a curacy in Foxton, where his sister, Dorothy May Atkins, was born on 25 March 1894. By 1901 the family were living at the Vicarage in Isham, Northamptonshire. It was there he learned to ring, as did his sister Dorothy.
He went to Wellingborough Grammar School and from there to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics and mechanical science. He graduated in 1912, and was articled to civil engineer JB Bell. He was a month short of completing his articles when he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers on 1 October 1914. After initial training at Chatham, he was posted to a field company of the New Army. He seems to have been based around Shrewsbury, or at least found some time to ring there over Christmas 1914. He was posted to France with 104 Field Company, 24 Division, on 1 September 1915. The division was soon thrown into the Battle of Loos, and suffered heavy casualties. In early January 1916 he had a brief home leave.
Then on 14 January 1916, near Hooge, Belgium, on a bright moonlit night, he was moving down a trench when he was hit in the left thigh by a sniper’s bullet. The bullet hit the inside of his thigh and passed right through, breaking the femur. He was evacuated to a dressing station at Vlammertinghe, then by motor ambulance to 10 Casualty Clearing Station. After then being taken on No 7 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne, he was finally brought back to England on 25 February 1916. He spent time in various military hospitals, and had to undergo several operations, also contracting the bacterial infection erysipelas. By October 1917 it was clear that he would not recover sufficiently to return to action and he was discharged from the army, though he continued to receive treatment. He was given a desk job in the Ministry of Munitions, and was living in north west London. He still couldn’t walk far without a stick when he conducted the officers’ peal.
Perhaps because of his wound he did not return to practice as an engineer after the war, but instead became a patent examiner at the Patent Office in Holborn in July 1920. A year later he called a peal of Bob Minor at Isham, the first inside for his sister, and first for the treble ringer, Miss Frances Canaan. On 13 September he married Frances at Isham, with both managing to ring for the service. They settled in London, ringing primarily at St Augustine’s, Kilburn. Their son, David E Atkins was born on 11 November 1924. On Atkins’ retirement from the Patent Office they moved to Teignmouth. He continued ringing until shortly before his death on 16 September 1964.