Rank: Private
Number: 37618
Unit: Y Company, 14th Battalion GLOUCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 22 October 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Bedford House Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

Joseph Braddock, a draper, married Elizabeth Lilley at All Saints Church, Marple. By 1901, when a national census was taken, they had five children and four year old Joe was the youngest. They were then living at Church Street. Nothing else is known of Joe's early life but the 1914 edition of Kelly's Directory shows Mrs Braddock trading as a draper at premises at 31 Stockport Road.

For reasons now unknown, Joe did not enlist into the army locally but joined up at The Lizard in Cornwall. Perhaps he was working near there or the family was on holiday. But he found himself posted to a local Regiment - the South Lancashires - and was given the service number 4836 (suggesting he was assigned to one of its Territorial battalions). However, this was for training purposes only and, before going on active service overseas, he was transferred to the Gloucesters. He had undertaken additional training as one of the Battalion's signallers and, as well as manning and maintaining the telephone systems, he would have also been a "runner" taking messages in person.

The Third Battle of Ypres had started on 31 July 1917 and, in a series of attacks over the coming weeks, the British Army had slowly fought its way forward. To the north of Ypres (now Ieper), an assault was planned on the German defences in the Houthulst Forest.

Zero hour was at 5.35am and the men attacked "in splendid spirits", as described in the Battalion's War Diary. Although there was heavy machine gun fire, they occupied their first objective and a German pillbox, known as Panama House. Capturing two more pillboxes on the way, they had reached their final objective and were consolidating the gains by 7.45.

Joe's mate, Private G J Nichols later wrote to Mrs Braddock and the wording suggests that, as signallers, he and Joe had probably remained in the British trench with Battalion Headquarters. "My poor old pal Joe has been killed in action. I am very much down-hearted about it. He was killed by a shell which wounded seven others myself included and I am at the base hospital. He was hit in the head. I had no time to take his photos off him to send to you because I could not get to him for shells. Only about a quarter of an hour before, we were singing and enjoying ourselves and then that happened. I liked him very much. We were always together and weeks ago we were talking about men getting hit and I said "If Joe gets hit, I shall be hit by the same shell" because we were always together. I shall never forget him". Nichol's comment that they had been singing and enjoying themselves probably means this was later in the day when the gains had been consolidated and the fighting had quietened down.

Joe's officer also wrote "It is with the deepest sympathy I learn that your son has been killed in action. I would like to offer you my deepest sympathy in so sad a loss. You will be glad to know that everyone was doing splendidly and he lost his life in an operation that our Regiment carried through in a most gallant way. He will be sadly missed by his many friends out here."

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