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Joseph Ward

Date of birth: 1890
Date of death: 18.9.1915
Area: Kirkhamgate
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Florence nee Beach
Rank: Private
Service number: 2396

War Service

Joseph joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Wakefield as Private 2396 of the 1st/4th Battalion. They landed in France on 12th April 1915 and in June he wrote a letter to Mr Hornshaw of the Gate Inn Kirkhamgate which was printed in the Wakefield Express.
“I am sorry to say some of my comrades have gone to their last resting place and they died like heroes defending their good old country. One never knows whose turn it is next. We have been fortunate amongst our transport men, as we have some very dangerous work to do, going to trenches with rations across open country. Bullets are whistling all around you, with shells occasionally flying over your heads. You cannot conceal a horse, laden with rations, very well on open ground, but we have to take all risks. With the searchlights on you all the way you are a splendid target for the German snipers, but even this does not make us downhearted.
We are progressing all along the line and we shall make the Germans remember the day they murdered innocent women and children.
We are expecting another big do before long and they ought to send over some of our shirkers to have a look at it. The weather is very changeable and sometimes our horses are in deep mud. It must have been a terrible experience for our troops in winter and I hope the war will be over before next winter, otherwise it will be an awful job.”
Sadly he did not live to see the next winter as he was killed in action on 18th September 1915 and is buried at Bard Cottage cemetery Belgium. The Battalion war diary gave casualty figures from 16th – 20th September as “killed 4 wounded 4 sick 8”, presumably one of the dead being Joseph. He is also remembered on the Wrenthorpe Colliery Memorial. His next of kin was given on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as Mrs F Ward of 2 Blacksmith Fold, Alverthorpe, Wakefield although at the time of his death he was said to be living in Ramsden’s Fold, Kirkhamgate.
It is probable that the Benjamin Ward that was killed in 1916 was his brother two years his junior. His brother John also joined up in 1917 giving his address as Roger Fold Kirkhamgate – he was wounded in action twice in 1918.
On 25th September 1915 the Wakefield express reported the death:
“Private Joseph Ward, Ramsden’s Fold of the 1st 4th KOYLI was shot through the head by a sniper and died shortly afterwards. Deceased who was 36 years of age, leaves a widow and three young children. Previous to the outbreak of the war Ward was a miner employed at Newton Pit. He joined the army a year last August and had been out in France for some months. He comes of a fighting family, for he has two brothers, two brothers-in-law, two uncles and three cousins who have joined His Majesty’s Forces.”
Given that John did not enlist until 1917 and this obituary was printed in 1915 it suggests that Charles as well as Benjamin was already in the army. The brothers in law were George Wood who had married his sister Harriet in 1911 and is also remembered on the Wrenthorpe Memorial and James Auty who married his sister Sarah Elizabeth in 1913. James enlisted in 1915 and was a driver in the anti-aircraft Company. He served in France in the Royal Field Artillery where he was wounded but survived to return home in 1918.
Joseph was awarded the 14/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. He was laid to rest in the Bard Cottage Cemetery, Belgium.

Family Life

Joseph was born in 1890 to Thomas Ward and his wife Martha who lived at Primrose Hill. Thomas and Martha had only been married the previous year. Thomas was, according to the 1891 census, a boatman n the canal who was born in Wakefield. Martha was a cloth weaver who had originally come from Leicestershire.
In the 1891 census Joseph was a “nurse child” with another family in Primrose Hill – perhaps his mother was ill or was already expecting the twins that were born the following year. Perhaps she couldn’t afford to stop working and had no family to look after Joseph – she was recorded as being a cloth weaver in this census. As far as I am aware, a “nurse child” was usually a child that had been temporarily fostered by another family for some reason.
Joseph was back with his family in Coach Road, Outwood by the 1901 census. He was the eldest child followed by 9-year-old twins Benjamin and Harriet, Elizabeth (7), Charley (4), John (2) and a month-old baby, Sam.
Joseph signed up for six years with the West Yorkshire Regiment on 26th February 1907. He had previously been working at Park Hills Colliery in Stanley and was aged 17 years and 6 months. He was said to be 5ft 9 inches tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. He also had a scar on the back of his head. His next of kin were recorded as his parents Thomas and Martha and his brothers Benjamin and Charles. He must have decided that the soldier’s life was not for him because on 21st May that same year he was discharge by way of purchase at a cost of £2!
In 1911 the family were living in Princess Ave, Outwood, along the street from Joseph’s future brother in law George Wood who is on the same Memorial. Father Thomas was now a miner as were Joseph, Benjamin and Charles. Harriet and Sarah (called Elizabeth in the last census) were mill workers while John, Samuel and the two youngest children Violet (b 1906) and Mary Jane (b 1908) were too young to work. According to the census Thomas and Martha had had two further children who had died. I did find the baptism of Ellen at Outwood. She was born in March 1903 and died in 1906.
On 31st August 1912 Joseph married Florence Beach and shortly afterwards they were blessed with a daughter Martha. In 1914 their second child was born whom they called Thomas.

Black and white photograph of Bard Cottage Cemetery with rows of crosses Bard Cottage Cemetery

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