Rupert’s tragic tale to be recounted at cemetery open day during trail of First World War graves

Captain Rupert Atkinson
Captain Rupert Atkinson

The story of a man who won multiple military awards after being invalided during the First World War has been released as part of a new heritage project.

Berkhamsted man Rupert Atkinson left his studies at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, to serve king and country and was sent to Cameroon for the West Africa campaign.

Captain Rupert Atkinson PNL-140909-174646001

Captain Rupert Atkinson PNL-140909-174646001

After being invalided home in April 1916, he joined the Royal Flying Corps gaining his pilot’s certificate that same year.

From November 1916 until the Armistice, Captain Atkinson was engaged almost continuously on the Western front in artillery observation, photography, overnight bombing and low-flying machine gun work.

He received the Military Cross in 1917 for a daring and successful attack on enemy observation balloons, the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1918 and the Belgian Croix de Guerre in 1919 when he was also recommended for a bar to his D.F.C.

He survived the war and in February 1919 returned home and announced his engagement to Margaret Hillier.

On March 7 of the same year, he died of pneumonia, following influenza, at his family home in Berkhamsted, aged just 22 having served his country for four and a half years.

This is just one of the fascinating stories to be found on the trail of First World War graves that visitors can follow on Sunday at the Heritage Open Day at Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted.

The event has been organised with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Herts County Council locality budget, Dacorum Borough Council and Berkhamsted Town Council.

James Moir, whose grandparents are buried in the cemetery, said: “We hope that lots of people will come and share the town’s history and heritage.

“For example, Captain Atkinson is buried in a significant, prominent location immediately adjacent to the memorial arch in the cemetery.

“Can any readers/visitors help explain why he occupies this key spot?

“Most importantly though we would like to hear views on how the past can be preserved, while the space could be enhanced for the benefit of the living.”

To send your views to Mr Moir, email him at