I’d read an article about Joseph's headstone which – along with others - had been found lying flattened in the foliage. As part of a ‘safety testing’ programme council workers had been pushing over supposedly unsafe headstones. A local retired school teacher who walked through the graveyard daily went rightly telephoned the council and said if the headstones weren’t re-erected within four days he’d sue them. They were back up in two days.
There are 16,000 graves in Willow Grove Cemetery but thankfully there was a sign pointing to the military section.
Joseph fought in World War 1 when he was in The Lancashire Fusiliers. The sergeant was fighting at the battle of Passchendaele in Belgium in October 1917. He earned his medal for storming two machine gun posts and capturing 100 enemy troops. His men could not advance as they were under the heavy gunfire. At the right moment he sprinted ahead of his men with no regard for his own safety to the machine gun and shot two of the gunners immediately. Some surrendered. He then entered the pillbox (a fortified concrete enclosure) and forced the other occupants to surrender or he’d kill them. All surrendered except one man who was promptly shot. He must have cut a frightening figure as approximately 100 of the enemy emerged from the shell-holes and surrendered.
He died aged 76 in 1963 and is buried in a corner of the cemetery with his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law.
Nearby I saw this graveyard hidden in the bushes so I just had to go and have a look…