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Joseph Fowler was born in March 1880 in Ulnes Walton, Lancashire.  His father was Robert Fowler (b. 1849 in Ulnes Walton), a farmer.  His mother was Jane Sharp (b. 1842 in Leyland).  Robert and Jane were married in Leyland on 18 July 1878 and they had three sons: Joseph, William Robert (b. 1882) and George (b. 1884).  In 1911, the three sons were living with their widowed father (Jane had died the previous year) at Lydiate Lane, Farington.

So Joe was 34 at the outbreak of War, and he enlisted on 2nd September 1914 with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was assigned service number 12829 and posted to 7Bn (Preston Pals).  Joe’s attestation record has survived.  He gives his occupation as a navvy.  He was 5’ 9” tall, weighed 146lbs and had a 34¼” chest, grey eyes and brown hair.  Joe remained at home and in training until 17th July 1915 when he landed with his Battalion in France.  Joe did not have the best of disciplinary records…  Whilst in training at Whitchurch in Hampshire in December 1914, he went AWOL for a couple of days, for which he received 96 hours Field Punishment No. 2 and loss of three days’ pay.  In May 1915, at Tidworth, he was absent from musketry parade and then discovered drunk in the barracks, for which he lost a further 3 days’ pay.  His ill-discipline continued in the field.  In August 1915, ‘when on active service, using improper language to a N.C.O.’ for which he was subjected to 14 days’ Field Punishment No. 2.

Another incident occurred in November (‘when on active service absent from his billet from 8.15pm until reporting himself at 7.50am, absent 11½ hrs’) for which he was given a further 7 days’ F.P. No. 2.  In Field Punishment Number Two, the prisoner was placed in fetters and handcuffs but was not attached to a fixed object (as in F.P. No. 1) and was still able to march with his unit. This was considered a relatively tolerable punishment.  In both forms of field punishment, the soldier was also subjected to hard labour and loss of pay.

Joe landed with 7Bn at Boulogne on 17th July 1915 and fought in the Battle of Loos in September that year.  After this battle and in the first half of 1916, the Battalion was in and out of the trenches in the area of Merville and Neuve Chappelle, near Armentières, but they left there in May and began training in preparation for the planned attack and at the end of June they went into the trenches at Hénencourt Wood, to the north-east of Albert, on The Somme.  On the opening day of the battle, 7Bn was engaged in the failed attacks on Ovillers and La Boisselle.  There was then a lull in the fighting in the middle of July, but on the 19th the Battalion was ordered back into the line at Bazentin-Le-Petit, with no more than 480 rifles to defend a line over a thousand yards in length.  Between 19 – 23rd July 1916, according to the Regimental history, 7Bn lost 11 officers and 290 other ranks, killed, wounded or missing.  According to CWGC, the Loyal Regiment in total had 113 officers and men killed during those days, of these 88 were from 7Bn, including Joe Fowler, who was 36 years old.

Joe’s father, Robert, died in 1919 so his War Gratuity of £8 10s was paid to his brother William.

Rank:  Private
Service No:  12829
Date of Death:  20/07/1916
Regiment/Service:  The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.
Panel Reference:  Pier and Face 11 A.

Bill Brierley
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