Very little is known about Joseph. Born locally, he was the son of John and Sarah Elizabeth. He had three older brothers, Herbert (who would be wounded on 30 April 1917), John and Harry and thre younger siblings Albert, Emily and Annie. The family home was at 74 School Street, Cheadle Heath but the family may have had an earlier connection with Heaton Moor as Joseph is commemorated on the local War Memorial as well as the main Stockport Memorial at the Art Gallery.
He enlisted in to the army at Stockport, joining the local 6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, on 2 November 1914. His service papers still exist at the National Archives and these show him to have stood at just over 5' 4" and that, before joining up, he had worked as a hatter. The medical examination noted he had good vision and a good physical development. Whilst still in training, he went absent without leave and, on 30 January 1915, was fined six days pay.
Joseph spent most of June 1916 in hospital in Bedford suffering from anaemia. The first half of August saw him back in hospital at Oulton Broad in Norfolk with scabies.
Still in the UK, he was transferred to the Fusiliers on 2 September 1916 and left Devonport on the 10th to join the Battalion in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). He arrived at Basra a month later, joining the unit at Amara on the 21st. On 7 March, he was in trouble again and forfeited a week's pay. This time he had been absent from "washing parade" and also showed disrespect towards a warrant officer.
British forces had moved into Mesopotamia to secure the oil fields but, encouraged by early success, undertook a rash advance to try to defeat Turkish forces. Instead, it was the British who were forced into retreat and were besieged in the town of Kut for several months before being forced into surrender at the end of April 1916. However, reserve forces were strengthened and Baghdad was captured on 11 March 1917. Fighting would continue for many months.
With the Turks retreating, British cavalry had dashed to engage them and cut them off but found themselves outnumbered and under severe attack. Infantry had to be despatched as quickly as possible to relieve them. On 11 April, Joseph and his mates arrived at Chaliyeh and, with the 8th Cheshires, were immediately thrown into the defence. This caught the Turks in the open in the middle of an assault and the Fusiliers caused many casualties with rifle and machine gun fire.
The next day, the British advance continued to pursue the Turks but there was no significant fighting. In the morning, scouts established the Turkish infantry were in defensive positions south of the village of Serai. Orders were issued to the Fusiliers, then still two miles to the rear in reserve, to move up and attack on a frontage of 400 yards. The attack went in at 1pm. The Battalion's War Diary records "Fairly heavy rifle fire was experienced and considerable trouble caused by three machine guns firing from our right front." The Battalion managed to advance for about a mile but then came under very heavy fire. Its position was isolated with no support on either side and they now took cover until relieved later in the day.