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Joseph Swarbrick was born in Lytham, Lancashire in 1893. He was the fourth of seven children born to James and Maria Sarah Swarbrick (nee Elston).

In 1911 Joseph and his brother Alexander were living with their married sister Veronica Longtree at 10, Allan Street Preston. Joseph was then working as a labourer in a wine store.

On 4th September 1914 Joseph attested into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment at Preston, he was posted into the 10th Battalion ten days later. He was 20 years, 10 months old and gave his occupation as a trade brewer. At his medical assessment he was noted as being 5 ft 5 ¾ inches tall, weighing 118 lbs. He was of fair complexion and had blue eyes and brown hair. Joseph initially elected his sister Veronica as his next of kin.

Two months after he enlisted, whilst the Battalion were training at Seaforth, Joseph was punished for being absent from 00:00hrs on 16th November until 11:00hrs on 24th November. He forfeited eight days pay.

In January 1915 Joseph married Mary Sunter at St Peter’s Church, Preston. He now made Mary his legal next of kin.

In February there were several letters sent back and forth between the Army and Mary, this was in connection with the separation allowance she was entitled to. Mary was concerned that she was only receiving 3.10 a week, which wasn’t enough to keep her in her lodgings at 19 Crown Street, Preston. Mary was six months pregnant and hadn’t been working for the last five weeks.

On 9th April, Mary had their child, a daughter they named Ada.

The day after his daughters birth, whilst the Battalion were training at Andover, he was again punished for being absent (between 21:30hrs on 10th April until 09:00hrs on 11th April) and was confined to barracks for five days. It can be assumed that he had traveled back to Preston to see his wife and new baby.

The following month, Joseph was in more trouble at Andover. He received four days confined to barracks for not complying with an order, then a further three days for falling out of the line of march and drinking water from a tap by the wayside.

Joseph Swarbrick sailed with the 10th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment to Boulogne on 31st July 1915.

In January 1916, whilst on active service he was given five days extra fatigues for failing to join the ranks after falling out (3); and being absent from sick parade (2).

On 15th July 1916 Joseph was accidentally wounded in the right foot, he was treated by the 141st Field Ambulance. He returned to the Battalion on the 30th.

On the 27th October 1916 he was accidentally wounded again, this time a bayonet wound in the left thigh. He was admitted to the 50th Field Ambulance before being moved through the 11th Casualty Clearing Station to the 8th S Hospital.

Report on Self Inflicted Wound

Date of casualty: 27/10/16

Circumstances: “During a practice attack, just east of VAUCHELLES. Pte Swarbrick was no. 3 in a group of 10 men advancing in a single file – they were advancing at the trail. On nearing the top of a hill Pte Swarbrick apparently being a little tired took one pace back, his left leg colliding with the bayonet of the man directly behind him causing the blade to penetrate his leg to the depth of 2 inches.”

Opinion of the O. C. Unit as to whether the wound was caused:

[a] Willfully

[b] Negligently

[c] Accidentally

“Accidentally” signed R. P. Cobbold Oct 27th 1916 commanding 10th L. N.
Lancs. Regiment.

Countersigned by P. M. Robinson – commanding 112th Infantry Brigade

Following this period in hospital the Medical Officer concluded that “the disability is of a trivial nature, and in all probability will not interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier.”

In mid-November 1916 Joseph was sick and was admitted to hospital in Boulogne. He didn’t return to the Battalion until 16th December.

Between 14 -23rd January 1917, Joseph was granted leave to UK.

On 11th April 1917 (one of the Battalions bloodiest days with 60% of the Battalion being killed near Arras), Joseph sustained a gunshot wound to the forearm which resulted in another spell in hospital. He returned to the Battalion at the beginning of May.

Joseph was appointed Lance Corporal (unpaid) on 17th May 1917.

On 3rd July 1917 Joseph was mortally wounded by shrapnel to his skull. He was admitted to the 50th Field Ambulance but died shortly after.

10th Battalion War Diary: 3rd July 1917

….Heavily shelled during the night with shrapnel. Two killed and 7 wounded.

Joseph Swarbrick was buried at the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France; grave reference: III D 167.

The following announcement appeared in the  The Preston Guardian on 14th July 1917;

Lance Corporal Joseph Swarbrick, Loyal North Lancs. Regiment, Machine Gun Section was killed in action in France on July 2nd being badly injured about the head by a bursting shell, the injuries proving fatal the same day.

He went out to France just over two years ago and before joining up worked as a labourer with a firm in Church Street Preston. He leaves a widow and one child who reside at 21, Allan Street, Preston.

Josephs personal effects were sent to his widow, Mary who was living at 19 Crown St Preston; Mary would later receive and acknowledge his 1914/15 Star, British War and Victory medals.

  • Packet of letters and photos
  • Religious book
  • Wallet
  • Notebook
  • Mirror
  • Bag


In January 1918, Josephs widow, Mary, was awarded a pension of  18/9 a week for herself and Ada.

The information in this article was researched and transcribed by Dave Swarbrick from his Swarbrick database. Thank you for allowing me to share Joseph’s story.

Paul McCormick
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