Joseph Barrett was born in Shaw in 1893 to parents Frank & Elizabeth who were originally both from the Wigan area. He was the second of their three surviving children (they lost two), Maggie & Nellie being the others. By 1901 the Barrett's had moved over the border to the Heyside area of Royton and were living at Broadbent Cottages. The 1911 census found them at 208 Littlewood in Heyside. His father died,aged 47,in 1914 and at some point after Joseph's death his mother had moved back to Shaw. Before joining up Joseph worked in the cardroom at the Ash Mill in Shaw.
Joseph enlisted in Oldham and became a member of the 7th Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. The battalion were formed in September 1914 in Lancaster & reached France in July 1915 with Joseph one of their number. That was to be the last he saw of England as he did not receive any leave home between then and his death a year later.
After a fairly quiet first 11 months or so the battalion found itself at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.They were not involved on the opening day of July 1st and were finally called into action on July 4th. That day they attacked, without artillery cover, from the positions they had inherited from other British units within the shattered village of La Boisselle and advanced about 300 yards. Losses, given the slaughter around them, were comparatively light with 16 killed, 2 missing and 66 wounded. The following morning at 02:00 they were relieved by the 7th East Lancs. Their break from the front line was brief - men had played supporting roles to an attack by the 7th East Lancs the following day and then on July 7th the battalion was once more thrown into action. The assault began at 08:00 with the 7th KORL going over the top along with the 9th Welsh. The men were to advance under cover of a rolling bombardment but disaster struck when either the barrage failed to move forward or the troops advanced too quickly. Wherever the fault lay the shells came down onto the attacking troops. About 30 men of Joseph's battalion were killed or wounded by the British gunfire. The advance restarted at 09:15 with the whole battalion charging across no mans land with fixed bayonets. The German trench was then taken after some hand to hand fighting. The 7th KORL took over 400 prisoners along with several enemy machine guns. At 04:00 on July 8th, Joseph and the other men of the battalion were relieved and sent back to billets in Albert. The next ten days were spent out of the line before they were sent back on the 19th and were to be in the support lines but the guides leading them there made an error and then found themselves in the front line. Heavy artillery fire resulted in 47 casualties before finally at 06:00 on July 20th they arrived in their proper positions. Their first day there was spent burying British & German dead from previous fighting.
At 00:30 on July 22nd a British attack was launched against nearby German positions. The 7th KORL were the brigade reserve. The attack quickly failed under heavy shell and machine gun fire and some of those shells had fallen amongst Joseph's unit. He was killed along with Colour Sergeant Thomas Dimelor from Chester. 10 more men were wounded and another listed as missing.
Date of Death:22/07/1916
Regiment:King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Panel Reference:Pier&Face 5D&12B.