He was commissioned lieutenant on 6 April 1757, promoted commander on 20 November 1763, and in 1772 joined the Scorpion 14, going out to the Mediterranean in April and leaving her after eventually being posted captain of the Montreal 32 on the same station on 18 September 1772. This vessel was paid off in March 1773.
In June 1775 he commissioned the newly-built Actaeon 28. Her first voyage boded ill, when after departing Portsmouth on 29 August for North America she was forced back into dock three days later after grounding on the Shingles sandbank. After departing Cork on 17 February 1776 for North America with a convoy his command went aground once more, and she was later abandoned and set on fire the day after Commodore Sir Peter Parker’s unsuccessful attack on Charleston on 28 June 1776, having driven onto a shoal through the ignorance of his pilot .
In October 1776 he commissioned the Aeolus 32, sailing for Jamaica in the following February, and on 12 September 1777 took the privateer sloop Swallow off Turks Island. She was back in Jamaica by November, yet her tender, Dolphin, remained at sea scoffing prizes. She later assisted the Ruby 64, Captain Michael John Everitt, in the capture of French Prudente 36 in the Bay of Gonave off Haiti on 2 June 1779. During the action Captain Everitt was one of only two men to be killed. After a refit and coppering during the ensuing winter she was serving off Portugal in the summer of 1780 with Commodore George Johnstone’s squadron. He left the ship in October of that year.
Atkins died on 21 January 1791.