RIFLEMAN JOE WILSON
268027, 2nd Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment.
Killed in Action, 29th May, 1918.
Aged 20 years.
No known grave, therefore,
commemorated on the Soissons Memorial, Aisne, France.
|The badge of 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.
Although he is listed as serving in 2nd
Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment, Joe Wilson’s service number is indicative of service in the 7th (Leeds
Rifles) Battalion of the same regiment.
|The Soissons Memorial
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 dearly, 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.
|Joe Wilson's name on 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.