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Dates of creation area
- Atkinson, William 1916-2000
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552 photographs: b&w and col. ; 29.5 x 23 cm or smaller
125 photographs: b&w and col. negatives ; 20 x 25 cm or smaller
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Name of creator
Born February 26th, 1916 in Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK, William Atkinson apprenticed to a Tramp Shipping Company at the age of 16. He began to serve as a Royal Naval Reserve Officer in 1939, and retired in 1947 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, MBE. In 1947 he immigrated to Canada with the intention to join the Royal Canadian Navy, but as naval jobs were limited during this post-war period, Atkinson sought alternatives. He landed a job as a Night Manager of Childs Restaurant where he learned about restaurant operations. After two and a half years, he resigned in January 1950 to become Resident Manager of a small luxury hotel named Glen Gordon Manor in Blenheim, Ontario. It was during this time that Atkinson accepted his own sexual orientation, and became sexually active (although this time does not mark his first experience with men).
In 1951 the Royal Canadian Navy offered Atkinson a commission, and he was appointed Area Recruiting and Public Relations Officer for Western Ontario. This was followed by a similar appointment to cover British Columbia. After three years in Recruiting, he was appointed First Lieutenant Commander of H.M.C.S. Quebec. In 1956 he was dispatched to Vietnam as a Naval Adviser to the Canadian Delegation to the International Truce Commission, and then in 1957/8 he was appointed Staff Officer upon his return to Ottawa. During this time, the Navy had begun its ‘witch-hunt’ for gay officers/recruits. Atkinson ‘retired’ from the Royal Canadian Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, MBE, CD, in 1959; he was forced to resign because of his sexual orientation, after being subjected to numerous hours of interrogation about his sexuality by the RCMP.
Given he had not yet served a full 10 years in the RCN, he was not eligible to receive his pension, and was forced to find other means of employment and income. His post Navy endeavours include owning a coin laundry service, acting, and a return to hospitality management – he managed various golf courses in Quebec and Ontario, and a hotel in Barbados. William Atkinson died on January 17th, 2000.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of records documenting the career of William Atkinson at sea in the 1930s as an officer in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, and subsequently in the Royal Canadian Navy, including a tour as an official in Indochina before being forced to ‘retire’ from the RCN in 1959 because of his homosexuality. Also included are records relating to his career while a civilian, including his time as a manager of a restaurant, owner of a coin laundry service, and manager of several golf courses and a hotel.
Included in the fonds are correspondence, certificates, course materials, addresses, photographs, and press clippings.
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Researchers wishing to publish materials must obtain permission in writing from the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives as the physical owner. Researchers must also obtain clearance from the holder(s) of any copyrights in the materials. Note that the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives can grant copyright clearance only for those materials for which we hold the copyright. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance for all other materials directly from the copyright holder(s).
Preferred citation: William Atkinson, 1998-078, Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.