268027 Rifleman Joe Wilson,
2nd Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment
Joseph Wilson, or Joe as he was known in his family, was
born in Aberford in 1898. He was the Eldest son of John Edward and Charlotte
Wilson. Joe had an older sister, Freda, and three younger brothers, Denis,
Jack, and Harold. Unfortunately, both Denis and Jack both died before they had
reached their first birthdays.
John Wilson was a coal hewer, and by the age of 15, Freda was employed as a nursemaid, working for the family of William Thornton, a schoolmaster, in Tadcaster.
Joe Wilson’s original service number, 2252, shows an enlistment in early September 1914 into the 1/8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles), and he deployed to France with this battalion on 16th April 1915. He was later transferred to 1/7th Battalion (Leeds Rifles), in the same brigade, and later still, to the 2nd Battalion, a regular battalion of the regiment, most probably in early 1918, when the 49th and 62nd divisions were reorganised from a four battalion brigade system to a three battalion structure.
Joe Wilson was killed when his battalion’s positions were
fired on by enemy trench mortars at Treslon, near Reims. So ferocious was the attack, that the
battalion was forced to retire to a position north of Bouleuse, roughly
three-quarters of a mile away. This period of two days cost the battalion dear,
with twenty-three officers becoming casualties, either killed, wounded or
missing, and 538 other ranks, including 514 of which were missing. Some of
these men may have made it back to British lines, but some will have remained
on the battlefield, alive but wounded to be picked up by the Germans, and inevitably
some will have died. Of the dead, when they were eventually recovered, some
will have been identified and some will not. The unidentified men are now
commemorated with Joe Wilson on the panels of the Soissons Memorial.
The entire division suffered casualties of this scale, making it necessary to bring the 19th Infantry Division into the line to relieve the battered 8th Divison, of which 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment was a part. The remains of the 8th Division collected at Nanteuil where it reformed into a composite battalion. It should be noted that an infantry division at this stage in the war was made up of nine battalions of roughly 1,000 men, divided into three brigades. Therefore, if the remnants of the division could be re-mustered into a single composite battalion, the casualties suffered in the previous couple of days’ fighting must have been utterly dreadful.
Notification of Joe Wilson being missing appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 23rd July 1918.