Joseph was born in Glago, Duneden, New Zealand around 1887. His grandfather, John Hope Clarke, was a cotton spinner on Pollard Street, Ancoats, Manchester. By the time of the 1901 Census, Joseph was living in Stockport, aged 14 and working as a cotton doffer. His parents, however, do not appear to be living locally at that time but had come to live at 25 Islington Road, Great Moor by the early 1920s. They were Henry Cheetham Clarke and Catherine MacKenzie Ross Clarke.
At the age of 16, on 7 November 1903, Joseph joined the regular army and was sent to India where he served with the Regiment for 8 years, being discharged on 28 October 1911. On his return to this area, he worked as a tram guard for Stockport Corporation. Usually, an ex-regular would have been required to spend several years on the reserve List and would have been subject to recall when War was declared in August 1914.
This doesn't seem to have happened with Joseph as the newspaper reported that he tried to enlist in October 1914 but was rejected because of a hernia. However, his service number is consistent with him enlisting in late August or early September 1914. The 2nd Cheshires were still in India at this stage and did not arrive back in Britain until Christmas Eve. It seems probable that, when he was recalled, Joseph was rejected because of his complaint, but he somehow managed to re-enlist as though he was a new recruit. There was, however, sufficient time for him to undergo a successful operation at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and join the Cheshires before they went overseas again on 16 January 1915.
Early in his overseas service, he was injured. It's not known if this was a wound or an accident but he spent time in military hospitals in Rouen and in Scotland, before rejoining the Battalion in May 1915. On 15 August, Joseph was in trenches at Lindenhoek (about 13 kilometres south of the town centre of Ypres). The Battalion's War Dairy makes no mention of casualties but a letter from one of comrades says that, about 7am, he was shot in the head (presumably by a sniper) and died instantly.
The sniper almost certainly accounted for John Bradley, killed two days later and, probably Thomas Morton, killed on 7 September.
Joseph's brother, E M Clarke, served as a farrier with the Transport Section of the 6th Cheshires and is thought to have survived the War.