Joseph was born in Blackburn, the son of Eliza. It has not been possible to establish the name of his father, but it would seem he may have died before the 1901 Census was taken. In that year, Eliza and her four children (Joseph, Florence, Mary and Mabel) were living as boarders at 184 Old Road, Stockport. This was the home of 56 year old Thomas Stanley and is significant in that Joseph is known to have used the surname Stanley in later life.
By the time of the Great War, Eliza was living at 59 Hesketh Street, Heaton Norris. Joseph is thought to have spent time as a regular soldier as his service number indicates he was on the "Special Reserve" and was recalled to the colours.
The 2nd Battalion, a Regular Army unit, had been in India when War was declared and did not arrive on the Western Front until January 1915. Joseph arrived in France on 8 April and will have joined the Battalion a few days later. His war was not last more than about three weeks.
Regimental records published after the War show he died of wounds he received and he is buried in a Cemetery adjacent to where 10th Stationery Hospital was based on the Channel coast. As such, it is not possible to say with certainty when he was wounded. He would have received immediate attention from the Battalion's own medical officer just behind the front line before being evacuated to a field hospital (Casualty Clearing Station) some miles in the rear. There his condition would have been stabilised before his further evacuation to the Stationery Hospital.
Whilst it cannot be known how long Joseph spent at St Omer, an examination of the Battalion's War Diary shows they suffered casualties on each day between the 23rd and 27th, whilst near or in the front line in the Ypres sector. The Germans had launched a large scale attack on Allied troops on the 22nd, involving the use of poison gas for the first time, and the situation was very difficult as the British troops had been pushed back and the line was just being held.
On 23 April, two companies were in the front line at Verlorenhoek where three men were wounded.
The next day, two companies located at Bellewaarde moved into trenches at nearby Polygon Wood but later moved back to Bellewaarde. Six men had been killed and 23 wounded. All probably were victims of shellfire.
At about 8pm, on the 25th, two companies were ordered to take part in a counter-attack to recapture trenches which had been lost earlier by the East Surreys. "Z" Company attacked near Broodseinde at about midnight and failed. "X" Company was brought forward to make another attempt at 3.30am on the 26th. This also failed and both companies took cover in nearby trenches, where they remained all day. Nine had been killed and 23 wounded.
Meanwhile, "W" and "Y" Companies had been ordered forward to Hill 37 to support the front line at a position known as Otto Farm. As they moved forward, they were shelled heavily with high explosive and gas. They advanced over the ridge of the hill at 5pm, under heavy fire and arrive in time to support the hard-pressed front line troops. They were withdrawn later in the evening with the loss of 4 men killed and 37 wounded.
"X" and "Y" Companies attacked again on the 27th. Major Wood's report records "Both Companies climbed out of their trenches and rushed forward simultaneously. The enemy appeared to reserve his fire until they were some thirty yards distant when a very heavy rifle and machine-gun fire was poured onto them." A small number of men reached the enemy's trench parapet but they were either killed or driven back. No casualty report for this attack is available.