Born on 17 May 1897 in Stanstead Abbotts, Hertfordshire son of Sidney Herbert and Alice Mary (Sheldon) Atkins. He lived in High Street, Stanstead Abbotts in 1901 and 1911 and was educated at Hertford Grammar School.
His father was a chemist. Alfred attended Hertford Grammar School from 1907-1916, having previously attended Stanstead Abbotts Elementary School. He left school to enlist in the army.