Joseph was born in Blackburn, the son of John and Sarah. He does not appear to have been living with his parents when the 1901 Census was taken and he is probably the 12 year old boy living at the Union Cottage Homes in Blackburn. The Homes were, in effect, a workhouse for children.
It would seem that the organisation that had cared for him as a child became his first employer as he is known to have worked as a clerk for the Union Workhouse - possibly in Stockport. In the late summer of 1911, he got married in the Salford area to Clara B Bridge. They are believed to have lived at 145 Adswood Road and would have three children together - Leonard, Joseph and Kathleen.
Joseph worked briefly as a tram driver in Stockport but later went to work for Baxendale & Co in Manchester. The Company was a large firm of ironmongers with premises at Miller Street. Joseph is commemorated on the Company's entry in the Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour.
He enlisted into the army at Manchester and regimental records published after the War indicate he originally joined the 7th (Territorial) Battalion. He never served abroad with the 7th and was, no doubt, transferred to the 17th after he had finished his training. It is not known when he originally enlisted but he was given a new service number when he transferred to the 17th and this number dates to around early 1916. He will have probably gone overseas in the late summer or early autumn of that year as part of a draft of replacements for casualties from the Battle of the Somme.
The Battalion's official War Diary carries scant details of the day that Jospeh was killed and the Battalion history, written in the 1920s, has little to add. The British offensive which was later designated as the Battle of Arras had started with some success on 9 April. The attacks on the 23/24th would be classed as the Second Battle of the Scarpe (after the nearby river.)
The 17th Manchesters arrived in the area on the 18th and took over a section of hurriedly dug front line trenches on the 20th. They were near the village of Heninel and faced the Germans entrenched across No Man's Land at Cherisy.
Zero hour was set for 4.45am on the 23rd and the men attacked on schedule. The attack was met with extremely heavy machine gun fire and artillery barrage. The machine guns had been placed in strong concrete shelters, which had withstood the British "softening up" bombardment. The Manchesters were unable to reach the enemy trench but dug themselves in at what was described as an "advanced position" in No Man's Land. The Battalion History records that, at 9am, "the enemy launched a counter-attack of great violence which, owing to the gallantry of the defenders, was repulsed and the position maintained. At 2pm, a further enemy attack was made and the Battalion suffered many casualties. At nightfall, it was withdrawn with a strength of 260 men out of 650 who went over the top."
Amongst the 84 dead was Joseph and another local man, Alfred Sutton.