Photo courtesy of Chris Eaton
Joseph Francis Kenyon was born in Bolton in 1892. His parents were Thomas, a cotton worker, and Margaret. Joseph's siblings were Thomas, Sarah Jane, Ester and Emily. Between Emily's birth in 1896 and the 1901 census they had moved to Farnworth. By 1911 they were in Royton, living at 48 Orchard Street. At that time Joseph,18, was working as a fire beater in one of the local mills - most probably the Grape. When he enlisted in late 1915 he was an assistant engineer at the Grape. Before that time though he had become a married man when he wed Mary Mullins in 1912. Son Thomas followed that same year. They lived at 2 St.Paul's Street.
Joseph enlisted into the Grenadier Guards and went out on active service at some time around May 1916. He joined the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in France, a unit that had left England back in October 1914.
The Guards Division reached the Battle of the Somme, which had been raging since July 1st 1916, in September. The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards played a support role to other Guards units during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, with one company ending up fighting in the front line, from September 15th to 22nd before being the whole battalion was thrown into the action during the Battle of Morval which began on September 25th. This latter battle was another attempt to capture what had originally been the final objectives of Flers-Courcelette - the villages of Morval,Guedecourt and Lesboeufs. The Guards Division were part of the force tasked with taking Morval and Lesbouefs.
On September 25th, the 1st Grenadier Guards were part of the second wave of the 3rd Guards Brigade's attack. The 4th Grenadiers and 2nd Scots Guards were to take the Brigade's first two objectives and then Joseph's 1st Grenadiers and the 1st Welsh Guards were to pass through and take the third objective. The initial wave went over the top at 12:35 and they had secured both their objectives by 13:45. Then it was the turn of Joseph Kenyon's battalion to pass through the newly captured trenches and attack Lesboeufs which they successfully captured. They then dug in and were relieved on the night of September 26th. During those two days and their role during Flers-Courcelette the casualties were listed as being 4
officers killed, 12 wounded, 80 other ranks killed, 431 wounded and 84 missing. Joseph Kenyon had somehow come through whilst so many of his comrades hadn't.
The 1st Battalion were out of the front line for the whole of October - which was spent in training and for the first half of November. From November 17th they then had three uneventful days in the front line near Gueudecourt and were again out of the line until relieving the 4th Grenadier Guards on December 8th for another three day stint in the trenches. The Battalion's war diary makes no mention of any casualties but on either December 9th or 10th Joseph Kenyon was seriously wounded. He died of his wounds on the 10th. It can only be surmised what happened - wounded by a shell or perhaps shot by a sniper.The cemetery he is buried in, Grove Town, was in use at the time by two Casualty Clearing Stations.
Back home in England his heavily pregnant wife Mary was informed a week or so later of his death. She gave birth to their second child, Josephine, in early 1917. The Oldham Chronicle reported that Joseph had been "a fine looking young man, tall and well built, and looked a typical Guardsman"
Mary remarried in 1917, to George Pursglove at St.Paul's Church in Royton. Joseph's father, Thomas, died in 1918 aged 59 and his mother Margaret followed in 1919 aged 60.
JOSEPH FRANCIS KENYON
Date of Death:10/12/1916
Cemetery:Grove Town Cemetery,Meaulte