‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

JOE BECKETT

Age:33

Date of Death:31/07/1917
Rank:Lance Corporal
Service No:R/16646
Regiment:King's Royal Rifle Corps
Unit:21st Bn.
Memorial:
Menin Gate
Panel Ref:Panel 51 and 53


Joe Beckett's inscription on the Menin Gate. Images courtesy of Kathleen Baker

Joe Beckett was born in Lees to parents John & Charlotte Beckett.It was a large family with Joe being the fifth of ten children. One of his brothers, John, was also to be killed in World War One.The Beckett's moved between Lees,Oldham and Shaw before settling in Royton in the early 1890's. At some point after the birth of the youngest child in 1896, John Beckett seems to have abandoned his family leaving Charlotte to bring up the 10 alone.
Before signing up in late 1915,Joe worked as a minder at the Parkside Mill. Three other brothers also served, John who was also killed in action and William & George who both were in the Royal Field Artillery.Mother Charlotte would herself die in 1915.
Joe's unit the 21st KRRC was formed in September 1915 from volunteers from the farming communities of Yorkshire,Northumberland and Durham. The battalion got to France in early May 1916 but were obviously slightly light on numbers as Joe was posted to France and the 21st KRRC on May 31st 1916.He obviously made a good impression as he was made a Lance Corporal on November 2nd. During this time there is a fair chance he was involved in the battalion fighting around Courcelette on September 15/16th. Of the 660 men of the battalion who went over the top, 319 were killed,wounded or missing.
The battalion's next major action was at the Battle of Messines in 1917. The trenches opposite the 21st had been effectively mined and were blown up along with their occupants before the advance. It's hard to imagine what sights Beckett and his comrades saw as they rushed forward.
On 31st July 1917 Joe was killed. It was the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres.The 21st were not involved in the big attack but were engaged in repelling counter-attacks,conducting raiding parties and holding the line. On the 31st, eight other men were killed - only one of the nine has a known grave:

Joseph Edward Ballard,Rifleman,200970
Tom Lester Firth,Rifleman,C/12937 from Leeds
William Aubrey Gilling,35 years old,Company Serjeant Major,C/12468 from Thirsk 
Henry Kirkby,Serjeant,5510 
Charles Pettit,Rifleman,A/200933
Henry Smith,Rifleman,R/25276
Fred Wallwork,Rifleman,R/33495 from Rochdale
John Horace Henry White,21 years old,Rifleman,R/32337,from West Kensington