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Joseph Armstrong was born in Morecambe on 12th April 1895. His father was a tailor and he had two sisters and a brother and they were living 3 Westover street in Morecambe.

When Joe was 8 years old his father left home and (possibly) joined the Black Watch. Joe’s family ended up in Lancaster workhouse, his mother working in the laundry and Joe scrubbing the floors.

Pre-war, having left the workhouse in about 1908 and moved to Brindle, Joe started to work in a cotton factory initially as a weaver and then a spinner. In about 1911 he was sacked from the factory and was working as a labourer for a steeplejack.

Joe traveled to Fulwood barracks in Preston and enlisted into the Special Reserve, joining ‘G Company’ of the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 21st January 1913. He was 17 years 9 months old but said he was 18 year 6 months. He was given the number 2123 and attended a training camp in Colwyn bay within the first month of his service and then went to Felixstowe camp in 1914.

Joseph was called up on 6th August 1914 and was sent back down to Felixstowe. Joe was part of the Military Police and as such was given his Lance Corporal stripe. As a first class shot he was offered the chance to stay in the UK as a musketry instructor at Fulwood barracks, this he refused as he wanted to serve in France and Belgium.

Joe sailed to France on 15th September to join ‘B Company’ of the 1st Battalion of the Regiment who had been overseas for just over a month. During the crossing he was in charge of the rations on the ship. Joe joined the 1st Battalion on the Aisne and was again appointed ration party corporal.

One day we were in reserve trenches and an officer thought he’d give us a bit of exercise. To get to this here village where he was taking us, we had to go over a plateau. I don’t know which Regiment got there first but we, my regiment, were right on the top of this plateau – which was probably about 200 yards across – when all hell let loose. The Germans had retired to positions that they’d held in 1870 during the French war, and they had all their artillery on this position so they knew the range to an inch.

Before we set off, the officer made us clean our buttons – you know, brass buttons – we had to clean them. So in that sunshine we must have been a beautiful target, mustn’t we? They were laughing and singing and joking, all the lot of them. And in the twinkle of an eye, I was the only one left alive out of 400. I was the only one left alive out of 400. Dead and dying all round me. I dived into a shell hole and stopped there for an hour and a half… – Joseph Armstrong © IWM

Joe Armstrong was taken prisoner of War at the First Battle of Ypres on 31st October 1914 and was taken by train to Parchim POW camp in Mecklenberg, Germany. The journey took three days and three nights. At the time of his internment he notified the Red Cross that his home address was 26 Bournes Row, Hoghton near Preston.

I scrambled out the trench with the others, I had my rifle in my hand and almost got bayoneted… – Joseph Armstrong © IWM

In September 1917 Joseph was transferred to nearby Gustrow POW camp and remained there until he was repatriated in December 1918.

Joe was discharged from the Army on 5th May 1919 and given Silver War Badge number B200936. He was awarded the 1914 Star and clasp, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Post war he worked as a policeman in Liverpool until being invalided out of the service in 1927. He now unemployed and forced to rely on parish relief and monies from an ex-POW fund.

During the second war Joe was employed on fire watching duties during German air-raids and then in 1942 he rejoined the Police force as a detective sergeant with Special Investigation Branch. He retired from the force in 1960.

Joeseph Armstrong died in Ellesmere Port in 1997. He was 102 years old. Shortly before his death he compiled Remembrance of the Great War” – poems by Corporal Joseph Armstrong which was priced 40 pence plus 20 pence P&P..

Information in this article was compiled in part using the interviews with Joe Armstrong by Peter Hart. These recordings are available in the Imperial War Museum sound archive and shared below under the conditions of the IWM Non Commercial licence.  © IWM http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80010696

Paul McCormick
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One Response to 2123 ACPL. J. ARMSTRONG. L.N.LAN.R

  1. Julie Jameson says:

    I knew Joe briefly in 1993 and 94. We met at small functions arranged for Old Contemptibles. Joe was an OC
    because he had served within range of the enemy mobile artillery between 5 Aug and 22 Nov 1914. I recall Joe was a tall man, straight bodied, his faced lined, but still my idea of a “good looking man”. Joe was a friendly,convivial sort and, like many others, I was much saddened when I heard of his passing.

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