William Aktinson was born on February 26th, 1916 to William and Margaret Ethel Atkinson in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. At the age of 14 Atkinson left school and took a job as an office-boy. At the age of 16, Atkinson joined the merchant service as an apprentice with F. Carrick & Co LTD of the Medensleigh Steamship Company. He was at sea for 4 years, during this time he completed his second mates foreign going certificate.
In October 1938, Atkinson began his service with the Royal Naval Reserve as a sub lieutenant. In 1942, Atkinson was appointed to commission and command the HMS “Manitoulin” which was being built in Ontario. He stayed in Canada for a year serving with the Royal Canadian Navy, until he was recalled to England for another command. While residing in Canada, he completed his Masters Foreign Going Certificate. In 1944, Atkinson applied for a transfer to the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, which was rejected on the basis that he was not a Canadian citizen. In 1945, he was promoted to the rank of acting Lieutenant Commander with the Royal Navy. In 1946, Atkinson made a second request to transfer to the Royal Candian Navy Reserve, which was once again denied. It was recommended to him to reapply once he had officially immigrated to Canada. In 1947, Atkinson retired from the Royal Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Atkinson immigrated to Canada in 1948 with hopes of joining the active list of the Royal Canadian Navy. He arrived in Montreal and presented himself before the Royal Canadian Navy authorities, but due to the decline of naval jobs during the postwar period, he was added to the retired list of the HMCS “York”. During this time, Atkinson was forced to seek out employment alternatives. Atkinson found job as a Night Manager of Childs Restaurant, located on 238 Yonge Street, Toronto. He supplemented his income by writing short stories for magazines, and delivered a 3 part broadcast entitled the “Emigrant’s Report” for the BBC Toronto Office. In March 1950, Atksinson left Childs Restaurant for the position of Resident Manager at the Glen Gordon Manor Inn in Blenheim, Ontario.
In 1951, Atkinson requested to be transferred to the RCNR’s active list through an application for a short service appointment. He was granted the role of Area Recruiting and Public Relations Officer for Western Ontario on the HMCS “Hunter”. This appointment was followed by a similar role in British Columbia on the HMCS “Discovery”. From 1954 to 1955, Atkinson completed the Junior Officer’s Technical and Leadership Course on the HMCS Stadacona, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was later appointed as First Lieutenant Commander of the HMCS “Quebec”. In 1956, Atkinson was dispatched to Vietnam and served as a Naval Advisor to the Canadian Delegation to the International Truce Commission.
In 1958, Atkinson returned to Canada, where he served as a Staff Officer in Ottawa. At this time, the Navy and the RCMP had begun its targeting of gay officers and recruits. After being subjected to RCMP and Canadian Naval Intelligence interrogations over the span of 10 months, Atkinson was given the option to be fired or to resign “voluntarily”. Atkinson submitted his resignation and was “Honourably Discharged” with the position of Lieutenant Commander in November 21, 1959. Atkinson would have qualified for a full pension on August 1, 1961, if he had been allowed to complete his ten years of service.
Following his forced resignation from the Royal Canadian Navy, Atkinson returned to the hospitality business. He managed a number of golf clubs in Quebec and Ontario. These clubs included the Kanawaki Golf Course, the York Downs Country Club, the Islington Golf Club, and the Brampton Golf Club. From 1961 to 1965, Atksinson owned a coin laundry service company called the “Coin Wash Limited”, located at 730 Charlevoix Street, Montreal. Atkinson spent a short period of time working at the Southern Palms Hotel located in Barbados from 1969 to 1970. He supplemented his income with acting and modelling which lasted until the 1990s, and was featured in commercials and shows, from a Bell Telephone Commercial, La Femme d’Aujourd’hui, Night Heat, and the Littlest Hobo.
Atkinson served as the President of the Sprucewood Court Condos located in Agincourt, Ontario, where he resided for over 15 years. In 1988, Atkinson moved to 19 Maple Street, Ajax, Ontario, where he lived until his death on January 17th, 2000.
Throughout his life, Atkinson had an interest in writing. From 1939 to 1946, he was enrolled in the London School of Journalism’s Short Stories’ Writer’s Program, which conducted its courses via correspondence. Atkinson submitted a number of works of fiction and non-fiction to various publications. This included a piece that was submitted to The Reader’s Digest and The Body Politic, that dealt with his interrogation and forced resignation from the Royal Canadian Navy.
In 1991, Atkinson made a request for his military personnel records from the National Archives of Canada under the Privacy Act. This search yielded a number files relating to his service, performance, medical, and dental records. However, the search did not result in any records from the RCMP or Canadian Naval Intelligence interrogations that pertained to his sexuality, which he was subjected to for 10 months.