Dear Hurworth

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Samuel's Story

FACED WITH THE HORRORS OF war, would you protect your family from the truth?

Soldiers had to be between the ages of twenty and forty. Samuel Arnold Atkinson was forty years old. He had a successful career, a wife and six children.

He enlisted anyway.

He believed very strongly in conscription, or compulsory military service. After campaigning for its introduction he decided he needed to "walk the walk". He left his life and family behind to go to war.

In this letter he lists all of great things that happen around him, hiding the truth about the pain and sadness he experienced on a daily basis. The letter is addressed as “Somewhere in France but nowhere exciting” because exact locations had to be kept secret in case letters were intercepted by the enemy.

The day after writing this letter home to his son, Atkinson was killed when he was shot by a German sniper as he rushed out to help a wounded soldier. He was remembered as a remarkable man, who was determined to do what he thought was right. This letter reminds us that soldiers wanted to protect loved ones from the harsh truth about war and how they often suffered in silence so their families wouldn’t worry about them.




Research Support

You have been given a letter from Samuel to his son Hurworth.  You are now tasked with discovering more of the story behind Samuel Arnold Atkinson. How much of his story can you piece together?  The suggestions below will help you on your research journey. The When We Search Fact Sheet will also be a helpful tool in helping you discover the pieces of Samuel's puzzle.

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You're in luck. Samuel served in the New Zealand Army so his records can be found online at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph. This is your most important search.  Collect as much information as you can. Once you've found Samuel's Serial Number move to Archway and search for his service documents there. (Quick Tip - Samuel has two sets of soldier records so take a look at both).



Check the date on the letter to Hurworth against the date of Samuel's death. Samuel's wife, Mary Atkinson, would have had a special card delivered to her with a photo of Samuel's grave and the exact location should she ever be able to visit.  Use Samuel's Service Number to search for the location of Samuel's grave.  Download the Cemetery Plan and use it in conjunction with Google Maps to find his final resting place. .



How old was Samuel when he went to war? Samuel wrote many letters campaigning for NZ to send more men to the front. Despite being a father of 6 children he followed his own words with actions and signed up to go as soon as possible. Can you find the letter in his Archway file asking to go at the first opportunity? What obituaries can you find for Samuel? Use Papers Past to search for articles written about 'S A Atkinson' in 1917. How did people remember him?


Uncover more pieces of Samuel's Story

why is the name 'hurworth' so important in the atkinson family?

Samuel writes to his son Hurworth, who is at Hurworth School in Wanganui. Use Google to establish other Hurworth connections to the Atkinson family, especially in Taranaki.  What happened to Hurworth School in the end? Can you find out if it is still a school today?

What was Samuel Atkinson’s father and what was he famous for?

The Atkinson's were a large and very prominent Taranaki family who went on to live in Whanganui, Nelson and Wellington.  What can you find out about them?  Is it possible to construct a family tree of the Atkinson's from a range of sources such as DigitalNZ? Samuel's father fought in the Taranaki Land Wars of the 1860s and was a lawyer but he was famous for something else.

what was samuel arnold atkinson's profession before he enlisted?

The Atkinson family was heavily connected with law and the legal profession.  Samuel had attended both Canterbury and Victoria University and his connections there as well as his professional life meant that he was very well regarded.  His influence was broad and many things including a scholarship and the school that went on to be known as Samuel Marsden Collegiate form a small part of his legacy.

Help solve the unsolved mystery.


Samuel Atkinson appears on the Nelson College Roll of Honour, The Victoria University Roll of Honour and the Wanganui Collegiate Roll of Honour.  His name is also on the NPBHS gates - but why?  Did he attend there? His family was from Taranaki but none of his obituaries mention his attendance.  What could the reason have been for the inclusion of his name on the memorial gates?


Search Further


A letter to Hurworth is connected with the story of Samuel Arnold Atkinson who attended Hurworth School, Wanganui Collegiate School, New Plymouth Boys' High School and Nelson Boys' College.The original letter is held by Wanganui Collegiate School Museum.This story is told with the permission of Shirley May Paterson, on behalf of the Atkinson Family.


Find documents connected with the life of Samuel Arnold Atkinson here

Samuel Arnold Atkinson's father was the New Zealand Prime Minister


Wanganui Collegiate School and New Plymouth Boy's High School 

The Walking with an Anzac Team found the first clue in Samuel's story when they visited Wanganui Collegiate School, then again at New Plymouth Boy's High School.   Further research on the same platforms you have used today allowed us to discover Samuel's Story.  

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Samuel Arnold Atkinson

Samuel's handwritten Service Records can be found on Archway here   

Research Starting Points for Samuel's Story.

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“Somewhere in France but nowhere exciting.”

How Atkinson addressed the letter to his son

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