Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Joseph Edwin Makin

Joseph Edwin Makin :

Joseph Edwin Makin : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Relief of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Relief of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'

Joseph was born between April and June 1870 in Manchester. His father was called Phinehas and his mother was Maria. He was their eldest son, and had a younger brother called Robert. The family were members of the Church of England.

Phinehas worked as a labourer at a print works, and in 1871 the family lived at 9 Botany Terrace in the Newton area of Manchester. In this year Maria was a silk weaver. Ten years later the family had moved to 28 Albert Street in Newton. Joseph was at school and Maria had become a cotton weaver.

By October 1888 Joseph lived at 57 Ash Street in Manchester. He worked as a labourer. On the 8th he joined the 4th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Ashton-under-Lyne. This was a unit of the Militia, so Joseph kept his home and job, and trained as a soldier for a short period every year.

When he enlisted Joseph was 5 feet 3 inches tall. He had a 'fair' complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He was given the service number 2643. He had told the Militia he was 17 years and 4 months old.

Joseph attended the 1889 training, but on the 23rd March 1890 he decided to become a Regular soldier. He enlisted in the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 2855. In 18 months he had grown 1 inch to 5 feet 4 and weighed 119 pounds. His eyes were recorded as blue.

After training at the Regimental Depot in Ashton, Joseph was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 5th July. They were stationed in Tipperary, Ireland when he joined them.

Oddly, Joseph was with his parents at 30 Albert Street when the 1891 Census was taken on the 31st March. He gave his occupation as 'railway servant'. We don't know why this should be.

By March 1892 the 1st Battalion had moved to Limerick. Here, on the 10th, Joseph deserted. He returned on the 14th April and was immediately put on trial. He was convicted and sentenced to 56 days imprisonment with hard labour.

He was released on the 16th June, but on the 25th July he was in confinement again. He had 'broken out of barracks'. He was sentenced to 112 days imprisonment with hard labour.

Soon after he had completed his sentence Joseph was sent to India to join the 2nd Battalion. They were in Dinapore, now Danapur, when he joined them on the 15th November 1892. He would be based here for his entire time in India.

The new environment didn't have much of an effect on Joseph's conduct. He was imprisoned for 14 days on the 23rd July 1894 and then on the 24th September 1894 he was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment with hard labour. We don't know what he had done on either occasion.

After this Joseph seems to have stayed out of trouble until the 25th February 1896. On this day he was tried by Court Martial for 'using insubordinate language to his superior officer'. He was sentenced to 9 calendar months imprisonment with hard labour.

The 2nd Battalion left India in November 1897 and sailed to Aden, now in Yemen. Joseph left them there and continued back to the UK. He had originally joined the Army for 7 years. When he deserted in 1892 his service up to then was discounted, so his 7 years came to an end in April 1899. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on the 22nd. Joseph could now return to civilian life and his new wife.

Joseph had married Mary Ann Spotswood in Manchester between October and December 1898. They had only a year together though, as Joseph, along with other Reservists, was recalled to the Army on the 12th November 1899.

The Boer War had broken out in South Africa on the 11th October after tensions between British and Boer settlers. The Boers had inflicted some serious defeats on the British during the opening weeks of the war, and by the end of October a large number of British soldiers were under siege in the town of Ladysmith. The 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was one of these units.

After being equipped, Joseph was sent to South Africa on the 30th November. He was sent as reinforcement for the 1st Battalion, but he could not reach them, so he joined other reinforcements in the 4th Provisional Battalion. This took part in the Relief of Ladysmith that broke the siege on the 28th February 1900.

Joseph then joined the 1st Battalion and fought with them during the rest of the war. After Ladysmith the British Army tried to force the Boers to face it in battle. They succeeded on the 21st August 1900 at the Battle of Belfast, or Bergendal. Joseph took part in this battle, which lasted until the 27th and ended with the defeat of Boer forces and the capture of their temporary capital, Machadodorp (today called eNtokozweni). The Boers did not surrender; they fought on as guerrillas in small units, so Joseph stayed in South Africa.

There were no battles on the same scale during the rest of the war. Joseph served with the 1st Battalion in many smaller operations intended to restrict the Boer's movements and force them to face British soldiers. This strategy was eventually successful.

On New Year's Day 1902 Joseph was placed in confinement for 'drunkenness'. He was tried by Court Martial on the 4th and found guilty. This was always a serious offence in the eyes of the Army, but even more so on active service during a war. Joseph was imprisoned with hard labour for 84 days.

The war ended on the 31st May 1902 and Joseph returned to the UK on the 7th August. He was demobilised and returned home shortly afterwards. Joseph was given a period of leave and a gratuity of 5.

Joseph and Mary had 5 children. Doris was born on the 4th April 1902, and baptised at St Anne's Church in Newton Heath on the 27th. The family lived at 5 Berry Street, off Droylsden Road. Joseph worked as a salesman at the time. His leave ended and his Reserve service resumed on the 26th March 1903, but after just a month Joseph was discharged.

He had been arrested by the 'Civil Power' for manslaughter on the 27th April. We don't know anything about the case, but he either wasn't charged or was found not guilty.

Frank was born on the 13th May 1904 and baptised in the same church as his sister on the 5th June. By this time Joseph was a 'maker-up'. The family still lived at 5 Berry Street. Edwin was born in around 1906 and Clifford in around 1910. The family had one other child, but they had died by 1911. We don't know their name.

When the 1911 Census was taken the family lived at 57 Albert Street in Newton Heath. Joseph worked as a tailor's cutter. They also had a lodger called George Barlow, who was a cotton spinner. Phinehas, Maria and Robert still lived at number 30.

The rest of Joseph's life remains a mystery. He died between October and December 1953 aged 82. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 1949. As well as his Queen's South Africa Medal, Joseph was also awarded the King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901' and 'South Africa 1902'.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council