Joseph Isaiah Wootton
Date of birth: 28.4.1874
Date of death: 22.9.1918
Regiment: Royal Engineers
Family information: Son of Jon and Ann Wootton
Service number: Corporal
Lance Corporal Wootton lived in Streethouse. He was killed in action on 22nd September 1918 aged 44 years.
He was born in Bilston, Staffs and enlisted in Pontefract. He was the husband of Grace Wootton, Streethouse and brother of John William Wootton.
He is buried in Villers-Faucon Cemetery, France. Grave II. E. 2. His grave is photographed.
In the Wakefield Express dated 24 November 1917 was the following article:
“An interesting little ceremony took place of Tuesday evening at the Workingmens’ Club and Institute when a presentation was made to Corporal Wootton, Royal Engineers as a mark of appreciation of his having received the Military Medal for bravery.
The presentation was made from the funds of the local Soldiers and Sailors Fund, and Mr. Herbert Hall, who presided, explained the objects of this fund, which provides for similar occasions and also for the homecoming of every soldier.
Mr. R. J. Squire in making the presentation, (a wallet of treasury notes) paid high tribute to the recipient. Corporal Wootton, who received a great ovation, in responding said he was at a loss to understand why all this ceremony should be taken on his behalf because he believed there were thousands of Tommies who had not only deserved the Military Cross but even the Victoria Cross.
Speeches were also made by Councillor Evans, Mr. J. Simpson and Mr. Samuel Harper. The proceedings were pleasantly interspersed with songs by Corporal Wootton and Messrs. Oliver Hale, John Russell, Albert Hill, Wilson Gaskell and Mrs. Vincent Wood, the accompanist being Councillor A. Evans.”
One small point. My grandfather, Joseph Isaiah Wootton, makes reference to the Military Cross in his speech. He also wrote in a tiny diary that I have, that he had received the Military Cross. He was mistaken in as much as this award was only inaugurated in mid 1916 as a new medal for bravery but as with most medals there was a medal for other ranks and a different one for officers. So other ranks got a Military Medal and officers got a Military Cross, hence Corporal Wootton’s error. Apparently officers had a different type of bravery than other ranks.
The 180th Tunnelling Company was raised on 22nd August 1915 at Labuissiere, France and Captain W. E. Buckingham was ordered to take command. Like all the ubiquitous tunnelling companies, the 180th were always on the move to and from different parts of the Western Front. Major Johnson took over command in June 1917.
By September 1918, with the help of the Americans and under the overall command of the French General Foch, the Germans were well and truly beaten, although they never gave up until the cease fire was agreed on November 11th. The allied forces were still being killed right to the end.
Early in September 1918 the 180th were in the Somme area, Albert and Combles and Trones Wood where their main task now was clearing traps left behind by the retreating Germans. On the 8th they moved to Villers-Faucon where Corporal Wootton was to be buried. At this time the company received a letter from Commander in Chief, Haig. “He conveys his high appreciation of the excellent work done by Major G. F. Johnson M.C., the officers, N.C.O.s and men of the 180th in clearing traps in the neighbourhood of Albert. The class of work involved called for the highest form of courage from those engaged on it.”
In the Company War diary the latter part of September is a record of wounded men, bravery awards and continual movements of the company. They were repairing roads, craters and removing booby traps and land mines.
On the 22nd September Corporal Wootton is reported killed in action. A wallet with a jagged hole, belonging to Joseph Wootton, points to him being killed by shrapnel either from a shell or from a booby trap bomb. We shall never know. Was this the wallet presented to him in November 1917?