JOSEPH EDWARD PEEL

Private 28679

Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment

16th Battalion (Bradford Pals)

Killed in Action 12th May 1917 Aged 25

Commemorated on the Arras Memorial Bay 4


Lived at 75, Dale Lane


Joseph Edward was born on the 10th September 1892, the eldest son of John Edward Peel, a woollen spinner from Batley and his wife Emma, formerly Popplewell of Birstall. John and Emma had married in 1887 and had six children. The family was living at 75, Hollinbank, Dale Lane Top, Heckmondwike by 1901.

Joseph attended Heckmondwike Secondary School, which later became Heckmondwike Grammar School, and then worked in the drapery department of the Heckmondwike and District Industrial Co-operative Society Limited in their central stores and later at the Littletown branch.  He was connected with the Heckmondwike Primitive Methodist Chapel and Sunday school situated on Batley Road, at the junction with White Lee Road, which had opened in 1869 but closed in 1975 and was later demolished.

Joseph enlisted on the 27th May and was posted to France on September 17th 1916.

Joseph’s younger brothers George and Fred were twins and also served in the Army. George was a Market Gardener and Fred, a Creeler for a Brussel’s carpet weaver. Fred is recorded in the Heckmondwike newspaper early in 1917 as being in the 1st Birmingham War Hospital, having been taken ill with trench fever and frost bitten fingers. Fred had attested under the Derby scheme and joined the 18th West Yorkshires in February 1916. After a short training in England, he was transferred to Malta, until he was then moved to France in December 1916. He spent a total of 111 days in hospital recuperating before returning to the front. His brother George was said to be training in Ireland and Joseph was in France. Fred was still in hospital when word came through of their elder brother.

From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British troops attacked German defenses near the French city of Arras on the Western Front. There were big gains on the first day, followed by stalemate. The battle cost nearly 160,000 British and about 125,000 German casualties. The battle has been nicknamed The Blood Tub by the Australians as it took a greater daily death toll than any other fought by the British Empire in the First World War.

Joseph died from the effects of a shell explosion during the Battle of Arras.  It is possible that Joseph may have died alongside Private 32516 Albert Hanson of Halifax also of the 16th Battalion whose story is told in “The Bradford Pals” by R N Hudson, 2013.  “Much work was done by the 16th Battalion in strengthening and deepening the trench north and south of the Gavrelle-Fresnes Road with a view to making a good taking-off trench for the Durhams. This activity did not go unnoticed by the enemy who directed a continuous barrage of 4.2 inch and 5.9 inch shells on to the front line. The work was not therefore completed without casualties. The Battalion lost three killed and eight wounded on the 12th and two killed and thirteen wounded on the 13th. Among those was Private Hanson who died on the 12th in a casualty clearing station with a wound to the head.”

The Cleckheaton and Spenborough Guardian published a report on Friday June 1st 1917 “that official notice of Joseph’s death on 12th May had been received on Saturday 26th May, a sympathetic letter from the chaplain having arrived the previous day.”

Medals: Victory and British.
Commemorated:  Heckmondwike Secondary School Roll of Honour; St Saviour’s memorial, now in Heckmondwike Parish Church; The Green Park Memorial; Vellum Roll.

Fred and George are recorded on the Vellum Roll as having survived the war.  It is kept in the Heckmondwike library within a large oak casket.
{PL/KH}

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