Joseph (Joe) Lowden
Born 1885 and died March 24th 1963 of WW1 Injuries with the Cheshire Regiment Joseph Lowden’s Service No: 14894
DIED OF WOUNDS 47 YEARS AFTER THE GUNS FELL SILENT
If you were to look on the internet at the service history at any time in the future you would find the men behind the medals but, you would not be able to find much information about them other than to say they had served in a Regiment between this and that year and had completed so many years before the colours, statistical information and not much else.
The Tameside Resource Centre have the records of thousands of men who served in the Manchester Regiment during 1st World War and they’re available for research, however many families of the men from Stalybridge, Hyde, Dukinfield and Glossop and further afield in Stockport, Marple and all those areas between Ashton-u-Lyne and Chester have to look elsewhere for details.
The Men we remember now are not just the men who died, they gave their all and could give no more, but also men who served our community with distinction and were injured, some quite seriously, we can be just as proud of their time with The Manchester’s, The Cheshire’s or West Riding Regiment, the cotton mills towns of the area provided many thousands of men for the Army, the towns of Cheshire who would become connected by a common administrative area “Tameside”.
“Joseph’s father was James Lowden he was born in 1857 and married Elizabeth Anne Shaw born in 1859 and they had four sons and two daughters with James, they lived in the yard at the back of 44 Spring Bank, Stalybridge earning his living in the local mills as a Cotton Mill Labourer and soon his son Joseph was to join him and become a
Weaver at the Riverside Mill”.
Joseph soon met Annie Jacobs a 21 year old Ring Spinner in the mill and they married 22nd July 1911 which was followed by the birth of their son George Lowden in 1912, he would have only been 2 when his father Joseph signed his attestation papers on 3rd September 1914, and they lived at 32, Grasscroft Street, Stalybridge.
He was tattooed with a Women’s Head and Clasped hands on his left and a Drummer on his right forearm.
He had already served time with the 4th Cheshire Militia at the local drill hall but when he signed his attestation papers he was destined for the 11th Bn Cheshire Regiment, who were part of the 75th Brigade 25th Division which hadn’t yet been formed at Chester, that would happen on 17th September 1914 as part of K3, Kitcheners 3rd Army.
They moved to Codford St Mary and by November 1914 they were in billets in Bournemouth, they finally moved to Aldershot in May 1915 for final training before leaving for France on 26th September, 1915.
“Joseph’s brother Fred Lowden had signed up in The Duke of Wellington’s 7th Bn West Riding Regt., before the war in 1910, probably because his mates were in at the Mossley Britannia Mill where he worked, he was assigned the service number 906, Fred came back unscathed from the war, the 7th Battalion was a Territorial Battalion with it’s HQ at Milnsbridge, nr Huddersfield, Yorkshire.”
Whilst Joseph was at Codford St Mary he was found to be a very strong minded individual, he was quite undisciplined and several Corporals, Sergeants and a Colour Sgt, charged him with refusing to obey orders and he was charged with being absent from parades along with list of other offences, he was a colourful character and one which is a reminder of the character that Cotton Mill produced with hard work, which we would all consider the right kind of a man to fight alongside.
THE 11th BATTALIONS FIRST ACTION
Background: The French were deserting VIMY RIDGE to the British having moved all the forces to the defence of VERDUN, the British just extended their lines from either side and took over not just their trenches but extensive mining operations or should I say undermining operations.
The11th Battalion’s action was the defence of Neuville St Vaaste in front of Vimy Ridge and Ecouvres against German attacks, the German artillery firing gas and other artillery shells at the front line support and reserve positions behind the British front line.
The Germans were expected to attack in May and were aiming to consolidate their objectives before the British could conduct counter-attacks powerful enough to recapture the ground. In that attack and its aftermath the Germans suffered 1,344 casualties against the 2,475 British losses.
A British plan to recapture the front positions and take the German side of the ridge was cancelled, because of the demand for men and equipment of the forthcoming Battle of the Somme, the attack on the Gommecourt Salient taking priority.
A GERMANS EYE VIEW
“The Germans judged Unternehmen Schleswig-Holstein a complete success. Reserve Infantry Regiment 86 reported that there had been little British resistance but the other battalions noted hand-to-hand fighting and enfilade fire from the flanks. Consolidation of the captured ground had begun at once but some German companies had been unable to identify their objectives because of the state of the ground and had advanced too far. The troops too far forward had been caught in their own barrage and it took much of the night to bring the troops back to their objectives. Some companies were still out of position when dawn broke and it took until 7:00 p.m. on 22 May to find s
ome of the right objectives. Orders were given to stop consolidation during the day, to deny the British any clues as to the position of the new line. British guns extensively bombarded the German approaches and at noon, some German shells fell on the new front line. The German infantry fired green flares, to get the artillery to increase the range but this gave away the line, which the British then subjected to massed heavy artillery-fire, the position would remain in German hands until the Canadian Division attacked in April 1917.”
The 11th Cheshire Regiment.
“In all of the 38 Cheshire Regiments they will suffer 9,030 deaths and over twice that injured during the first world war, the number of injuries were catastrophic and the system initially couldn’t cope with the numbers, the majority from machine gun fire but mechanised warfare leaves many type of injuries” .
It was the policy of the British to rotate the troops in the front line every few days to give them a rest, at the time that Joseph Lowden was injured they were in the front line, it had been quiet for a few days with little happening except for a few snipers who were dealt with by their own snipers, one of the other methods of attack was the “Bomber Parties” a number of Germans would attack a trench using grenades usually at night when it was difficult to see them, at ground level a bomber attack was difficult to predict, especially at night and unexpected.
Joseph Lowden was with the 11th Battalion’s first actions which was the defence of Vimy Ridge at Neuville St Vaaste then moved to the Ecoivres area, it was after this that Joseph was admitted to the 75th Field Hospital on the 29th April 1916.
The Cheshire’s were new to the sector and were unfamiliar with the layout, they had been using trench telescopes and Ariel photographs to appraise themselves of the layout, having taken over the trenches, on the 26th April they were surprised by a sudden attack by a “Bombing” party of Germans, one of the grenades exploded near Joseph.
JOSEPH IS A CASUALTY
14894 Pvt Joseph Lowden was admitted on 29th April to the 75th Field Hospital and after that the OC (Officer Commanding) 22 General Hospital at Camiers on 1st May from the Field Hospital reported that Joseph was “Dangerously ill” with Multiple injuries to his Chest and Head, the instructions were that his relatives were to be informed, his wife Annie was confirmed to have been contacted on 4th May, on the 5th May the OC asked for his wife to visit the injured soldier in France, she was notified by 5th May her travel papers were sent the same time, it was reported on 8th May he was anxious to see his wife, she left for France and visited him at the hospital at Bologne.
The notes here say “On the 24th May the OC 22 General Hospital Camiers reported that Joseph was out of danger and that he would be transferred to England, they notified his wife on the 29th by hand.”I don’t think it was Mr. Lowden’s
On the 7th June he was transferred to the hospital Ship at Boulogne and arrived back in England within a few days, the register shows he was admitted on the 12th. June 1916.
On 6th May 1916 Joseph Lowden had been accepted into the No: 2 General Hospital London for admission, this was a specialist hospital for his kind of injury.
No 2 Hospital from the beginning of 1915 had received 22 patients who had been blinded, including two officers and one NCO. The War Office decided in future to send all patients with badly damaged eyes to this Hospital
As well as his other injuries Joseph was now blind.
The extent of his injuries, showed that this attack badly damaged Joseph his right hand which had to be amputated at the wrist along with part of his right ear and the grenade riddled his chest with shrapnel and finally it was to rob him of his sight, he would eventually die of his wounds 47 years later as his wife Annie, who nursed him and looked after him until 1963, was praised by the Coroner for doing so.
“Joseph Lowden’s war had cost him and is family dearly, he was and would be unable to work and in need of constant care, even in 1943 some 26 years later he had an operation to remove some of the shrapnel from his chest and from his lungs but it was only partially successful, they could not remove it all.”
HOW THEY RECEIVED THE NEWS BACK HOME
Back home in Stalybridge the community would learn of his injuries through an article in the local paper “The Ashton Reporter” which kept details of all men from the local area and their regiments so that friends, family and neighbours could keep up to date not just on how the war was going but mostly how their men folk were and could rally around those known to have lost family, such were the close bonds in this community.
It would be many months before Joseph was to leave hospital and be discharged from the armed services, recovering was a very slow process and it was not until 26th April 1917 that he was officially discharged from the Army and his service was complete, 2 years 327 days, for 340 of those days he would had been in agony, and it wasn’t over yet.
HIS WAR PENSION
Mr Lowden was given 27 shillings and 6 pence as a war pension for his injuries, he would never be able to work again and the £2 per week he earned as a Weaver at the Riverside Mill in Stalybridge meant any normal family would be plunged into poverty, his wife was better than that.
Standard working-class family budget of 22s 6d per week in 1904, printed in the Cooperative Wholesale Society People’s Year Book, 1922, prices nearly doubled during WW1.
Joseph Lowden was to live for another 47 years before succumbing to his injuries, suffering from a coronary thrombosis which caused his death, the coroners report is further down.
JOSEPH LOWDEN AT THE UNVIELING OF STALYBRIDGE WAR MEMORIAL
Sunday 6th November 1921
Nearly 24,000 people attended the unveiling, a figure nearly equal to the post war population of Stalybridge. The Ashton Reporter commented that “never in the history of Stalybridge had there been such a gathering of people.”
The unveiling was performed by “the War Mayor” Alderman Bottomley, who declared that the names of the fallen were not only engraved on the memorial, but were “engraven on our hearts.”
The memorial was dedicated by the Rural Dean of Mottram, the Rev. Canon T. H. Sheriff. The inaugural procession was led by two former members of the Cheshire Regiment, ex-privates Joseph Lowden and Henry Roberts, both of whom had been blinded in the war, and who laid the first wreaths. They were followed by another former private from the same regiment, Ernest Sykes, V. C.
One wreath, from the employees of the Joint Board, said, “These men played the game” there were 628 men of Stalybridge who fell in Great War and since then a further 310 men had been discovered missing from the lists.
WIFE NURSE PRAISED IN CORONER’S COURT – 47 YEARS OF DEVOTION.
When Mr Joseph Lowden died in 1963, Annie Lowden and many members of her family attended, there were many Lowden’s who attended there were many who went to the funeral from his neighbouring streets and from his favourite watering hole The Grapes, The Reverend J H Hartley presided over the funeral and there was a service at Holy Trinity Church, with internment at St Paul’s Church.
He had some difficulties all through his life after he was injured and before his death, he’d had a operation in the 1940’s, a bout of severe haemorrhage from his nose in 1961 and a heart attack in 1962 left him bedridden.
The inquest into Mr Lowden’s death was very interesting, Dr H F Ellis who carried out the post-mortem said: “He had little bits of shrapnel scattered about his lungs” he went on “He was also missing his right hand, part of his ear, parts of his tongue and his lip” he further said “Considering the state of the poor man, he was absolutely clean and well cared for, his wife must have nursed him well”, the coroner Mr Brian Taylor praised her for the way she had nursed her war wounded husband, he said: “ I join with Dr Ellis in paying tribute to you, for nursing him for so long in such a way that he enjoyed his life as much as he possibly could.” “He died from coronary thrombosis”
VERDICT: You would feel here that the verdict showed sign of being the biggest understatement in the history of warfare wounded: “His death was partly attributed to his war injuries”.