WW1, VE Day and a special middle name


Herbert Atherton White

If you know me you will know I have a middle name.  If you know me well you know it begins with an A.  It is only if you know me really well, call me mum, or are related to me that you will know what it actually is.

This is going to be one of those blog posts that waffles a bit before it gets to the point, but bear with me.

I wasn’t Christened as a baby, I was about 13 or 14 when I decided that I wanted to change that and exercise the right my parents had decided to leave to me.  They didn’t want to make the decision to be christened for me when I was a baby, deciding to leave it to me to decide if I wanted to join the Church of England in my own good time.   That time came in my teens, I don’t remember why but I was christened on the Saturday and confirmed on the Sunday.

Up to that point I didn’t have a middle name, something my parents had not given me and I quite liked the idea that I had a punchy name consisting of just two parts and I loved it.  But growing up I realised that when I married my surname would die out.   My dad had sisters, I was an only child.  There would be no more Donnans when I got married.  I was the last of the line.   So I hit on the idea of adopting my dad’s middle name because I knew it was a “family name”, not really at that age knowing the history of that name but liking the idea that I had it and when I married and had children I would pass the name on.

Genius.   Even for a 13 year old, I think you will agree.

Except it was a bit of an odd name and I sort of then didn’t really use it much.  It is on various documents but I don’t use it much and I sort of mumble and change the subject when people asking if I have a middle name.

Fast forward ten years to having children of my own and I didn’t give any of the name because of a mixture of reasons, my ex husband wasn’t keen and well, it just didn’t happen.

Now fast forward to Christmas this year.   One of our Christmas presents from my parents was a commemorative £5 from the Royal Mint to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War.  A war in which my Great Grandfather Herbert fought.


Born in July 1884 he was married to Lilian in August 1907 but died in Aubers Ridge, Ridge in 1915.

On May 8th in fact

One hundred years ago today.

Which is also the same day that 30 years later Winston Churchill declared the end of the Second World War, what became known as VE Day.

So today is the 100 year anniversary of the death of my great grandfather, my children’s Great Great Grandfather


Especially Herbert Atherton White

The A stands for Atherton.

It’s his middle name that I adopted when I was 13

Whose name I never really understood but who today I am going to spend the day thinking about.   Remembering him and now understanding the significance of the family name my dad and I share.  He, and my son Jonnie, are actually in France today as they are going to pay their respects in person, on what I am sure will be an emotional trip.

For the fallen

I shall also be raising a glass to him and all the others who died for our freedom in both of those wars and saluting those involved in all the VE Day celebrations tomorrow

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  • What a lovely, special story. It warms my cockles to think of a 13-year old you making such a conscientious decision, rather than picking something cool and trendy, even if you didn’t know the full significance of the name back then. Sending lots of love to the various generations of your family and wishing your two travellers a safe trip.

  • Lovely post and I can’t believe I didn’t know that. My Granmother’s maiden name was Atherton. Thinking of Herbert Atherton White, love how you have continued his legacy x

  • A truly moving piece, Tanya. One of those rare pieces where the words and story transcend from the screen. What I mean by that is sometimes I read a piece and forget I’m reading. The piece plays out in front of me. This was a wonderful thing to read this commemorative weekend. My love, Mx

  • What a great middle name! My family is beset with strange names, quite a lot of them beginning with A, such as Aglio, Aelius and Augustine for example. My son has the last one for one of his middle names.

    Don’t be ashamed of your family names. They are your heritage, so say them loud and proud! I’m proud that my son’s other middle name has been used over four generations (Raphael). How else are they going to continue to survive if they don’t get an airing once in a while?