Rank: Guardsman
Number: 24578
Unit: 4th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS
Date of Death: 25 September 1916
Age: 18
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Joseph Burrell married Esther Wild at St Mary's Church, Stockport in the June quarter of 1893. By the time of the 1901 Census, the family was living at Hollins Side, Marple and Joseph was earning his living as a labourer. They now had four children - William (6), Maud (4), Joseph (2) and John (3 months).

John enlisted into the army at Hyde and his service number indicates that he cannot have been at the front for very long before he was killed.

In the middle of September 1916, the Grenadiers were involved in a major assault as part of the on-going Battle of the Somme, when they attacked towards the village of Lesboeufs on the 15th. A further attack, to capture the village, was planned for the 25th. They moved into position during the night of the 24/25th. Zero hour was set for 12.35pm and the Regimental History recounts "As zero hour approached, the men fixed bayonets and remained motionless waiting for the whistle which was the signal to advance."  Following a covering artillery barrage, they went "over the top" across No Man's Land. As the crossed the German front line they came under "terrific machine gun and rifle fire and terrible gaps were made in the ranks". They pressed on to their objectives in the German second and third lines of trenches and over 150 of the enemy were bayoneted. After re-grouping, they moved forward again, at 1.35pm, securing their final objective after stiff opposition.

They held this position until they were relieved at 10pm on the 26th. Since the 18th, the Battalion had suffered 458 casualities - dead, wounded or missing - more than half their number. As well as Joseph, Harold Higgins and John Rowley were amongst the dead.

Joseph was one of those originally posted as being missing, but his body was never recovered and identified. It was not until July 1917, that the Stockport Advertiser reported that, as no information about him had been received it was now being officially presumed that he must have been killed on the 25 September. The newspaper continued "On that date, he went over the parapet with his comrades and has not been heard of since. He went over at night and was missing next morning. He enlisted when seventeen years of age and went out to France when he was 18 years old. He knew he was under age for foreign service but was anxious to go and did not step out when an order was given for those to do so who were underage. He said he had a good training and wanted to do his bit. He was a fine young man, standing six feet two inches high. Before joining the army, he was a cloth looker at Hollins Mill and attended Marple Unitarian Sunday School and Church."

The newspaper report actually carries a couple of inaccuracies. Assuming Joseph was 18 when he went overseas, then he was not underage for foreign service and, as seen above, the attack took place in the broad daylight of an early afternoon, not at night.

Further information about Joseph, including a photograph, is included in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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