Joseph BELL
Rank: Private
Number: 60117
Unit: 15th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 27 July 1917
Age: 36
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Nothing is known of Joseph's early life, except that Regimetnal recorsds published after the War show he had been born in the Higher Broughton area of Salford. He was married to Esther. Theyy had one son and lived at 10 Derby Street, Marple. He was a slater and plasterer by trade and it's perhaps no surprise that when he enlisted into the army, probably in the middle of 1916, he was assigned to the Royal Engineers. As a sapper, he would have hoped to put his skills t use. However, once he had completed his army training, he found himself transferred to the infantry and sent overseas on active service. He would be dead two months later.

As July 1917 was drawing to a close, the British Army was making its frantic final preparations for the major offensive, scheduled to start on the 31st, that would later be officially called the Third Battle of Ypres (but is, perhaps, better known as Passchendaele). In the sector to be attacked by the 38th (Welsh) Division, aeroplane reconnaissance was reporting that the enemy appeared to be withdrawing their guns to safer locations. By the 26th, it also appeared that the infantry may also have been withdrawn from the front line. If this was true, the British could undertake a swift move forward and the attack on the 31st would be from a much better position.

Two companies of men, including "A" Company of the 15th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, were selected to reconnoitre up to the German front line. This was clearly a very dangerous operation. Either they would find the trenches empty and the whole Division could move forward and the loss of life on the 31st would be much less. Or, they would find the trenches still occupied and it would turn into a "suicide mission". They advanced across No Man's Land at 5pm. The Regimental History records that "they had almost reached Cactus Junction with no opposition, when the enemy opened a murderous fire on them. In a few minutes the company was cut to ribbons." Joseph was, no doubt, a member of the Company and died during the mission. His body was never recovered and identified.

Further information can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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