(L to R) Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Joseph was born in June 1892 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. He was named after his father and his mother was called Mary Jane. He had three older siblings: William, Nellie and Florence; and 3 younger: Wilfred, Doris and Walter. Joseph senior worked as a market gardener and the family lived at 13 Welbeck Street in Ashton.
By 1911 Joseph was working as a piecer in a cotton mill, we believe this was Tudor Mill in Ashton. Wilfred attended St Peter's Anglican Church in Ashton and was a member of its Sunday school. Joseph was only two years older than him so it is very likely that he was also involved with this Church.
Joseph joined the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 1st July 1911. This was a unit of the Territorial Force so Joseph would have continued with his normal job and trained to be a soldier during the weekend. He was given the service number 1193. Joseph was 5 feet 3 1/2 inches tall and was described as having 'Good' physical development when he enlisted. He attended the annual camps at East Marton in July 1912 and Aldershot in July 1914.
When the First World War broke out in August 1914 the Territorial Force was called into service. Joseph and the 9th Battalion were sent to Egypt on the 25th September. On the 9th May 1915 they took part in the invasion of Gallipoli in Turkey.
We know very little about Joseph's time in Gallipoli. In December 1915 he was taken ill with dysentery and frostbite. He spent time in hospital in Mudros on the Greek island of Lemnos, but he did not recover. On the 18th January 1916 he was sent back to the UK.
We don't know where Joseph spent the first half of 1916, but by September he was serving with the 8th (Reserve) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This suggests he was still not recovered enough to return to the front.
Over the three months between the end of September 1916 and January 1917 Joseph has 8 entries on the Company Conduct Sheet for G Company, 8th (Reserve) Battalion. Most of these charges are for being Absent Without Leave, or for disorderly conduct. He was absent for two full weeks in January 1917. In each case he was Confined to Barracks for a number of days.
On the 1st February Joseph was posted to the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and he was sent to France. After around 3 weeks at the 30th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples Joseph was assigned to the 19th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 24th February. He was given the service number 48498.
Wilfred had followed his brother into the 9th Battalion. He enlisted in April 1915 and was assigned to the second battalion raised by the Ashton Territorials (2/9th). They arrived in France in February 1917. Sadly Wilfred was killed on the 20th April. He was 22 years old. Joseph's older brother William was a member of the Royal Naval Air Service; he was stationed in London when Wilfred was killed.
During July 1917 the 19th Battalion was involved in the Third Ypres Offensive. During the fighting on the Wytschaete Ridge in late July Joseph was awarded the Military Medal for an act of bravery. The citation for his medal has not survived, so we don't know exactly what he did. His award was published in the London Gazette on the 28th September 1917. Joseph was promoted to Lance Corporal in October 1917.
Joseph appears to have stayed with the 19th Battalion until it was disbanded. This happened because of a reorganisation of the Army that aimed to have more soldiers in fewer battalions, rather than fewer soldiers in more battalions. It took place on the 6th February 1918 and Joseph was sent to the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He was promoted to Corporal on the 22nd March.
The 17th Battalion took heavy casualties during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918 and after the survivors had spent time attached to other units and training American soldiers the Battalion was absorbed by the 13th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 30th July.
The 13th Battalion was itself absorbed by the 9th Battalion on the 2nd August, so William found himself back in his original unit, although he would not have recognised very many faces.
Before the end of the war Joseph was wounded in action. We don't know exactly when but he was not with the 9th Battalion on the 3rd December. He was sent back to the UK on the 26th December and demobilized at Oswestry 'as a Coalminer'. We don't know how much experience Joseph had of coalmining, if any.
Joseph's life after the war remains a mystery.