Joseph had been born in Stockport and lived there with his wife, Esther, at 5 Forbes Street, Hall Street area. He worked as a salesman at an "establishment" owned by Councillor Winter on Little Underbank, but it is not known what he sold.
It is not known if his parents, Ralph & Ellen, were still living in the area at the time but, by the early 1920s, they had moved to 3 Park Street, Skelton-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire.
Joseph probably enlisted around the winter of 1914/15. He had earlier service numbers 15653 and 4223. The former number is one of a batch used by one of the Regiment's New Army Battalions. He may well have served with this unit before being transferred to the Territorial 1/4th Battalion and being given the number 4223. He was one of three brothers to join up. One of them was also killed serving with the Durham Light Infantry. The name of this brother is not known and is not commemorated on any local war memorial.
Joseph had been interest in ambulance work as a civilian and he was working as a stretcher bearer when he was killed. The Battalion were Pioneers - trained fighting soldiers but mainly tasked with the construction of trenches and strongpoints. They were in bivouacs some five miles behind the front line which was at Combles, 20 kilometres east of the town of Albert. Each night, they would come to the front line to work.
Lieutenant Heald's diary is quoted in the book "Subalterns of the Foot" "Went out again and constructed a trench to a place called Angle Wood. We got shelled, of course, as the Germans scatter shells all over the place, but we were not too near the front and so escaped lightly. "
Joseph was nearby in a communication trench when one of the shells burst. Five men were killed, but only three bodies were recovered. Joseph and another man were buried by debris and could not be found. Lt K N Standish later wrote to Esther saying he had the highest regard for Joseph's devotion to duty.