Gunner Joseph Neville

19230 Royal Field Artillary died May 29th 1919 Age 26

A name recently (2014) added to the cenotaph in Albert Square is J NEVILL. The British Legion do not provide a Christian name but state that he was Driver 19230 of the Royal Field Artillery who died aged 26 on May 29th 1919 and is buried at Audlem. They also record that his parents were Mr. J. and Mrs. S.J. Nevill of Congleton Road.

Joseph Neville was born in Audlem in 1893. His parents were Joseph and Sarah Jane Neville (née Worrall). The couple had married in October 1892 at Nantwich. Joseph was their first child and their eldest son. In 1901 they were living at 4, Wilkesley Cottages, Audlem. Joseph senior was a stockman on a farm. Seven year old Joseph had a brother Harry aged five and a sister, Frances Emily, who was three months old. Ten years later, in 1911, Joseph was a groom on a local farm. His parents were living at Hayfields, near Audlem. Two further children had been born.

Joseph was in Liverpool in the early days of the Great War, when he enlisted into the army on September 8th 1914. At the time of enlistment his height was given as a little over 5ft 9in and he was of fair complexion with grey eyes and brown hair.

He joined the Royal Field Artillery and within a few days had started his training as a gunner at the Artillery no. 2 Depot at Preston. Coming from the country and working as a groom Joe would be used to handling horses and soon learnt that an artillery man always put the needs of his horses first. Watering, grooming, feeding and bedding down, morning and night, these tasks took priority. The new recruits were to train on the 18-pounder field gun and 4.5 inch howitzers, deadly weapons which took great skill to fire. The various parts of the gun were taught besides the gun drill, cleaning and firing, they were also shown how to drive and ride the powerful six-horse team and gun limber.

The Royal Field Artillery had their Central Training Depot at Swanage in Dorset where the recruits continued their instruction. In May 1915 Joseph was posted to the Artillery Ammunition Column, 80th or 89th Brigade, (unfortunately the figures in his records are smudged with age). With their training complete the lads were now ready for war and crossed the Channel to France on July 14th 1915. Although the service records of Joseph have partially survived, sections are difficult to read due to damage, so following his war service on the Western Front proved not an easy task and it is only assumed his Ammunition Column was part of the Artillery to 21st Division.

On the Western Front this division fought in the Battle of Loos during September and October 1915. The following year found Joseph suffering from shell shock, in May 1916, however it is not known where he was treated and how long he was out of line. The division were in action in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 fighting at Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcelette, and Morval where the infantry captured Geudecourt with the artillery in support. On October 10th Joseph was posted as an Artillery Driver, presuming more drivers than gunners were required in his unit at that time. In late November the division saw their final action on the Somme at Le Transloy.

At about this time Joseph was gassed during a mustard gas attack on his sector. His condition became very serious and he would have been treated in a base hospital in France before being transferred to England on November 22nd 1916 for further hospital treatment. His condition did not improve and on February 12th 1917 he was discharged from the colours. The reason given on his service records indicates a code of “PU” meaning physically unfit for further military service.

No doubt the gassing in 1916 contributed to Driver Joseph Nevill sadly dying at his home in Audlem on May 29th 1919. He was 26 years old. He now rests in the Audlem Cemetery.

He received the British, Victory and 1915 Star medals.

His name also appears on the Audlem war memorial. It would seem that his parents moved to Biddulph after the war. Joseph senior died in 1923 and Sarah Jane in 1935. Both are buried in Biddulph.

Elaine Bryan and Michael Turnock.

 

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