Joseph Stanley OLIVER
Rank: Private
Number: 54919
Unit: D Company, 16th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 27 April 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Joseph, senior, had died in 1899 aged 41. When the Census was taken two years later, his widow Mary was living at 68 Charles Street, Stockport. She was carrying on trade as a provision dealer - no doubt running a corner shop. Also at home were her four children - Herbert (then 18), Edith (11), Ernest and Joseph (aged 2 and presumably twins).

Nothing is known of Joseph's early life but he was, no doubt, conscripted into the army when he became 18 and had probably been on active service for about a year when he was killed in action.

The 16th Battalion had been all but destroyed in the German attack on 21 March 1918 and less than 75 men answered the roll the following day. The British Army's retreat continued for several more days and further losses were incurred. Battalion strength had increased by the beginning of April and it was moved north to the sector near the Belgian town of Ypres.

On 19 April, still only two companies strong, it was amalgamated with a similar number from the 17th Battalion and would fight as a "Composite Battalion". It took over the front line near Spoil Bank on the southern side of the Ypres-Comines Canal. On the 24th, they were moved back into support.

Details of the following days are very sketchy due, in the great part, to there being no-one left to write the account into the War Diary. On the morning of the 25th, the Germans attacked in strength but were counter-attacked by one company of the Composite Battalion. The remaining men formed a defensive flank between Shelley farm and Voormezeele. The next day, there was fog and the German used this to attack again. This time they had more success and the Manchesters were driven from their positions and had to take up new defences on the north bank of the Canal at Lock 8. They held this for the next two days but there are no details of the day Joseph was killed. The two companies probably had an original strength of around 400 men. When they were relieved from the Lock, they had been reduced to 59.

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