Joseph Johnson was born in 1885 in Packmoor and his birth was registered at Tunstall. He was the second son of Henry and Hannah Johnson (nee Machin). In 1891 they lived at Turnhurst Lane and by 1901 the family had moved to 5, Lawton Street, Lane Ends, Packmoor. The family remained at this property and were there at Joseph’s death in 1916.
His father, Henry, was a collier born in Kidsgrove. In 1883 he married Hannah Machin at Newchapel and by 1911 they had had six children. Both the 1901 and 1911 census described Joseph as single. In 1911 Joseph was working as a labourer in an iron forge; ten years earlier he had been working in a coal mine.
We do not know if Joseph was married when he enlisted or got married while serving. However, there are three marriages recorded on Staffordshire BMD which could potentially be for this Joseph Johnson. In 1911 a Joseph Johnson married an Elizabeth Williams, in 1912 to a Mary Ann Hughes and in 1916 to a Sarah Jane Taylor. It is not known which one, if any, is ‘our’ Joseph.
Joseph enlisted at Tunstall joining the 1st Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. This was a battalion that went to the Western Front on September 12th 1914 - during the very early days of the war and fought in the battles of Aisne and Ypres. However without service records or any local information, Joseph’s date of enlistment is unknown. Unless he was a reservist, Joseph most likely trained as a draft replacement, and therefore joined his battalion at a later date.
As part of 6th Division, the North Staffords served in the Ypres salient during 1915. In October the battalion changed to the 24th Division. They remained in Flanders in the Bethune area and held their lines. Cemeteries in the area contain many brave men of 24th Division who fell in these actions, including John William Smith, a Biddulph soldier. The battalion remained here until mid-August 1916 when they moved to fight in the Battle of the Somme. By the end of the month the division was in the Guillemont area of the Somme battlefield.
This may have been the area in which on August 31st 1916, Joseph sadly fell in battle. Private Joseph Johnson has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme and also the Brindley Ford Memorial.
Elaine Bryan & Mike Turnock.