Royton Roll of Honour

Infantry preparing to advance from assembly trenches during the opening day of the Battle of Arras, 9 April 1917 © IWM (Q 5118)

JOSEPH WILLIAM HELLIWELL
Age:22
Date of Death:03/05/1917
Rank:Private
Service No:20344
Regiment:Lancashire Fusiliers
Unit:2nd Bn.
Cemetery:Point-du-Jour Military Cemetery
Grave Ref:IV.E.15



Early 1917 was fairly quiet for the Battalion but this was all to change when the Battle of Arras began on April 9th. This was the British Army's first major offensive of 1917 and the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers were to be part of the second phase of the opening day's assault. The 9th Division, in the first phase, was to take three lines of German defences (known as "Black","Blue" and "Brown") and then the 4th Division, which included the 2nd LF, was to pass through and take a fourth line and the village of Fampoux before pushing on and establishing themselves in a fifth German line - the "Green Line". The 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers allocated role in the scheme of things was first to capture 500 yards of the German fourth system and then to go on and seize about 450 yards of the "Green Line". It was then to dig in but to send strong parties forward to capture any German artillery in the area and to keep in touch with the retreating enemy. The 9th Division had been unable to keep up to it's timetable which meant the battalion had to wait it's turn out in the open. Under German artillery fire they lost about 150 men in casualties. At 13:30 it finally moved forward, reaching the Brown Line at 14:00. Then under cover of a creeping barrage the battalion went on the attack at 15:13 with B & C Companies reaching the first objective at 15:45 without great difficulty and without suffering many further casualties.Most Germans encountered at this point surrendered, a few tried to run but most of these were killed by Lewis-gun fire.At 16:12 it was the turn of A & D Companies as they passed through B & C and advanced towards the Green Line. They came under heavy machine gun fire and at first tried to push on but then coming to an area of ground that was flat and swept by fire had to dig in just east of the road running north of the eastern end of Fampoux. The battalion had suffered 63 casualties by this point. The men stayed in the new position overnight during a heavy snowfall and then throughout April 10th in which a further 73 casualties were suffered under sniper and shellfire.
The following day, April 11th, B & C Companies (later joined by D Company) played a minor role in a failed attack by the 1st King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. The battalion's casualties during the day totalled 19. One of the wounded men during this period was Charles Riley, who had to have a leg amputated and the following year died at home in Royton.
After their involvement in the opening days of the fighting the 2nd LF rested in the back area until April 29th when they moved back towards the front. At this point they were some 450 men strong - at full strength a British battalion would have nearer 1000.
They relieved the 22nd Northumberland Fusiliers in the front line to the east of Fampoux late on April 30th. The men found that the trenches were shallow and weren't sufficient to protect men standing upright. May 1st was a quiet one but at sunset and then again at dawn on May 2nd the Battalion came under German artillery fire suffering some casualties. The men were to launch an attack in the early hours of May 3rd but before doing so men of D Company were sent out to secure an unclaimed section of trench, moving in bright moonlight they came to the attention of German snipers and suffered several casualties in doing so. While this was going on the rest of the Battalion were readying themselves for their attack which was to take place at 03:45. Their first objective was a chemical works and Rouex railway station. They were then to push on and take some german trenches about 1400 yards further on. The chemical works were about 500 yards from the men's starting positions and the railway station perhaps half that distance. At 03:45 the Lancashire Fusiliers went over the top, advancing behind a creeping barrage provided by the British artillery. On the right B Company was in front with C in support whilst on the left D led the way with A following. D company was held up almost at once by machine gun fire, they and A Company suffered heavy losses. An attempt was made to outflank the houses where the German machine gunners were stationed but this failed and the survivors from both companies were forced to return back to the original front line.Meanwhile B & C Companies met little opposition and managed to push forward under cover of the barrage. They captured the chemical works and then still in accordance with the timetable began to progress further. Owing to the darkness and a railway embankment that split the two prongs of the Fusilier's attack these two companies were unaware of the failure of the attack to their left. To compound their problems the Brigade on their right had failed to capture their objective - Rouex Chateau - and when daylight came the defenders of that position began to put rifle and machine gun fire down on the Lancastrians. The men now found themselves trapped having advanced without support on either side. The Germans re-established their line between the station and the chateau and the entirety of B & C Companies were lost - either killed or captured. The Battalion recorded their losses for the day as 4 officers wounded, 1 officer wounded and missing and 9 officers missing with 17 other ranks killed, 84 wounded and 174 missing.
Joseph William Helliwell was one of the many killed. Royton man Robert Franklin was another of the Battalion who lost his life. That same day across the battlefield another three from Royton died - Harold Buckley, James Clarke and James Leach.
It's not known when official confirmation finally reached Joseph's parents that he was dead, given the confusion of the battle and two companies being completely lost it was probably a fair while after his death. In 1918 Joseph's brother Charlie was also killed in action.
Their mother died in 1930 and their father in 1939, both resident at the times of their deaths at 40 Dogford Road. Charles and Margaret Helliwell are buried together in Royton Cemetery.
It was later established that 94 members of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers were killed that day. The large majority of whom have no known grave. Joseph's body was identified however and he is buried at the Point-du-Jour Military Cemetery.
Those to die along with Joseph and Robert Franklin were:

ASHWORTH FREDERICK Private 32250 from Bury            
AULT WILLIAM Private 21038 from Derby            
AVIS HENRY 32 Private 24679 from Manchester            
BAGNALL SIDNEY 26 Private 16411 from St Helens            
BAMFORD HARRY 27 Corporal 2972 born Rochdale,lived Manchester            
BANNISTER ALBERT 32 Private 14855 from Oldham            
BARNES JAMES 25  Serjeant 31778 from Swinton            
BARRETT  JOHN Private 242995 born Shaw, lived Blackpool            
BATCHELOR HERBERT 22 Private 25736 from Accrington            
BOYLE JOSEPH 19 Private 242189 from Liverpool            
BREEZE EDWARD 23 Private 24447 from Rochdale            
BROWN ARTHUR Lance Corporal 24490 from Salford            
BROWN DAVID Lance Corporal 37814 from Farnworth            
CHADWICK HENRY 28 Private 25958 from Burscough            
CHILD EPHRAIM 35 Private 22770 from Bradford            
CLARKE RICHARD Private 6975 from Manchester            
CLEAVER  CHARLES 23 Lance Corporal 24192 from Nottingham            
CLEGG JAMES 29 Private 25240 from Whitworth            
CLOUGH EDWARD Private 24477 from Radcliffe            
CLUGSTON CHARLES Private 24524  from Edinburgh            
COCKER HENRY Private 24518 born Manchester,enlisted Salford            
CONCANNON JAMES 31 Second Lieutenant from Newbury            
DAVENPORT ROBERT Second Lieutenant                    
DAVIDSON JAMES 41 Private 24548  born Bootle,enlisted Bury            
DAVIES WILLIAM 37 Lance Corporal 35898 from Rochdale            
DEAN ELLIS 27 Private 32485 from Formby            
DEAN WILFRED 22  Corporal 24102 from Nottinghamshire            
ECCLES JOHN Private 32490 from Flint            
EDEN GEORGE Private 22698 born Mansfield,enlisted Oldham            
EDGE ALFRED Private 31792 from Manchester            
FARNWORTH THOMAS 27 Private 21162 from Blackburn            
FARRELL THOMAS  Private 9660 from Burnley            
FIDLER HARRY Private 24459 born Blackpool,enlisted Rochdale            
FLEMING LAWRENCE Private 3672 from Oldham            
FRANCE HAROLD 33 Private 35695 from Denton.Parents lived in Oldham            
FRYER JOHN Private 31841 from Salford            
GOSLING    EDWARD Private 5608 from Liverpool            
GRIFFITHS FRANK Serjeant 2673 born Walsall,enlisted Wolverhampton            
GRINDROD WILLIAM Private 24899 from Rochdale            
GRUNDY HERBERT Private 34712 from Salford            
HEYWOOD  JOSEPH 25 Private 37629 from Salford            
HILL DANIEL 19 Lance Corporal 37937 from Rochdale            
JOHNSON  JOSEPH Lance Corporal 6738 from Manchester            
JONES OLIVER 23  Lance Corporal 4485 from Bolton            
JOYNSON  WILLIAM 27 Private 37673 from Manchester            
LANGHAM HARRY 27 Private 37112 from Derby            
LAYTON JAMES Private 35443 from Radcliffe            
LEECH JOHN 21 Private 21651 from Rochdale            
LICHTENSTEIN MONTAGUE 22 Private 20335 from Manchester            
LUMLEY JOSIAH Private 35780 from Failsworth            
MERCER JAMES 32 Private 9387 from Wigan            
MOORES ALFRED Private 15124 from Salford            
NOCKTON  MICHAEL Private 20041 from Oldham            
NORMAN JOHN Corporal 3210 from Liverpool            
NORRIS BERTIE 23 Second Lieutenant from Southport            
O'BRIEN    GRANVILLE Private 1067 from Heywood            
PARK HAROLD Private 20811 from Tyldesley            
PARKINSON FRANK  21 Private 32753 from Haslingden            
PARKINSON JOHN 23 Corporal 28339 from Manchester            
PEARSON  JOHN Private 10186 from Salford            
PEARSON JOHN F.  19 Private 41485 from Oldham            
PENNEY JAMES 25  Private 25952 from Widnes            
PERCIVAL HAROLD 24 Corporal 240680 from Rochdale            
PLANT BERTRAM Serjeant 24137 from Stoke-on-Trent            
POTTS DENNIS 20 Private  33714 from Bury            
REYNOLDS FRANCIS Private 24671 from Salford            
RICHARDS WILLIAM 20 Lance Corporal 37939 from Rochdale            
RICKARD JOHN Private 35161 from Rochdale            
RIMMER JOHN 31 Private 26068 from Southport            
ROGERS ALBERT Second Lieutenant                    
ROSBOTHAM THOMAS Lance Corporal  37961 born Belfast,enlisted Salford            
SCARISBRICK JOHN 30 Private 31564 from Scarisbrick,Lancs            
SHUTT JOHN Private 22209 from Keighley            
SMITH ALBERT 32 Private 32510 born Nottingham,enlisted Newcastle            
SMITH SYDNEY Private 303044 from Egremont,Cheshire            
SPENCER ROBERT Private 37864 from Bury            
STAINTON JACK Private 38380 from Cumberland            
STAKES JESSE Private 5049 from Salford            
STANSFIELD JOSEPH Private 14586  from Middleton            
STOTT FRED Private 23734 from Middleton            
SUTCLIFFE ERNEST Private 37931 from Rochdale            
SWARBRICK JOHN 24 Private 3735 from Manchester            
THOMAS HORACE Lance Corporal 3136 born Oswestry,enlisted Bury            
THOMPSON FRANCIS 32 Private 238005 from London            
THORPE JOEL Private 37193 born Yorkshire,enlisted Chesterfield            
WALKER GEORGE Private 38369 born Bedfordshire,enlisted Hitchin            
WATSON WILLIAM 21 Private 38383 from London            
WESTLEY  THOMAS 29 Private 238017 from London            
WILKINS ARTHUR 40 Private 37206 from Burton            
WILKINSON JAMES 33 Private 36578 born Delph,enlisted Middleton            
WOLSTENCROFT JOHN 20 Private 28315 from Manchester            
WORSLEY WILLIAM 32 Private 12070 from Salford   


Joseph William Helliwell was born in the Elton area of Bury in early 1895.His parents were Charles, a cotton worker, and Margaret. He was the fourth of seven children, his siblings being Elizabeth, Frank, David, Charlie, Russell and James. At some point between 1903 and 1905 the family moved from Elton to Farnworth and were living at 43 Bentley Street there.By that time Joseph was also working in the cotton industry.
Joseph's whereabouts after the 1911 census are a mystery. At the very least his parents and younger siblings moved to Royton at some point but if Joseph moved with them isn't known but it's safe to assume he'd left Farnworth as when he enlisted in the army he did so in Ashton under Lyne.
A date for Joseph's entry into military service is also hard to pinpoint but it's likely this was in early 1916. He was first a member of the Manchester Regiment and would have spent time with one of their reserve battalions based in England.Enlisting in Ashton may have meant he wished to join the Manchesters rather than another regiment as this was where the Regimental Depot was. When it was Joseph's turn to be sent out for active service however he found himself a Lancashire Fusilier, the Regiment of his home town Bury. Again, an indication as to when Joseph reached France has proved elusive to pinpoint but going off his service number and those of men with similar ones it would appear he was one of the drafts of men received by the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers in late 1916/early 1917 to replace their losses fighting at Le Transloy in October 1916. In that fighting Royton man Owen Regan had been killed. Previous to that others from Royton to have been killed with the 2nd LF were Harry Turner, Thomas Noone & John Rees Butterworth.

photo courtesy of Peter Hastie