Joseph A FODEN
Rank: Private
Number: 13994
Unit: 8th Battalion BORDER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 5 July 1916 (official) 3 July (probable)
Age: 21
Cemetery: Serre Road Cemetery no. 2, Serre, Somme, France

Regimental records published after the War, and used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for date of death, do not fit the known facts. As will be seen the Battalion was actually in action on 3 July and in reserve by the 5th.

Joseph was born in the Harpurhey district of Manchester and was living there, aged 5, when the Census was taken in 1901. His father, then aged 29, was a foreman at and engineering works. His 28 year old mother, Fanny had given birth to two daughters, Nelly and Annie, before Joseph.

The family later moved to 542 Gorton Road, Reddish and, when he left school, Joseph followed in his father's footsteps and went to work for Craven Brothers, which was a well known local machine tool and crane manufacturing company. When the Great War started, Joseph was working as a fitter.

He enlisted, at Manchester, joining the Borders very soon after War was declared in August 1914. The Battalion, part of the Army's 25th Division, left for France on 26 September 1915.

The Battle of the Somme started on 1 July but Joseph and his mates were not involved in that first devastating day. They were held in reserve and it was not until the next day that they moved forward to assembly positions, south of the French village of Thiepval in the heart of the battlefield.

This would be Joseph's first and last time that he would "go over the top". At 6am on the 3rd, the 8th Borders left their trenches and advanced in four waves, one Company in each wave. Very soon, messages were coming back from officers for supplies of grenades and more men and these were sent until there was none left. The Battalions which attacked with the Borders - the 11th Cheshires and 2nd South Lancashires - both had many Stockport men amongst their number. As they advanced across No Man's Land, they were hit by heavy machine fire which caused many casualties, particularly with the Cheshires and South Lancs who were on the flanks of the attack. In the centre, the Borders managed to occupy about 180 yards of the German front line, but it had been damaged by the British artillery barrage and offered little cover. After an hour, it as clear that the situation was impossible and there was no option but to withdraw back to the original British front line.

The Battalion held it's position until the night of 4/5 July when it was withdrawn to bivouacs behind the front line in the relative safety of Aveluy Wood where it remained until the 7th.

The Regimental records published in the early 1920s  as "Soldiers Died in the Great War" and used by the War Graves Commission for its records show only 14 men killed on the 3rd when the Battalion attacked, yet it shows 130 dead for the 5th when they were in relative safety. Clearly a recording error has occurred.

This is further confirmed by the knowledge that the The Times wounded list published in the newspaper on 30/8/16, reported Joseph to be "missing". If he had been killed during a period of rest, then his body would not be missing. He was almost certainly killed whilst crossing No Man's Land. It would have been much too dangerous for men to go out and recover bodies and they were left where they had fallen, often for several weeks or months, until future advances captured the ground. In many cases, men could no longer be identified but, as Joseph is buried nearby, he must have some identification on him.

   
           
   
     
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