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Joseph Henry Carter

Joseph Henry CarterPrivate Joseph Henry Carter, 27773, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 2nd/4th Battalion

Joseph Henry Carter was born in Flushdyke, Ossett, in late 1878, the son of Ossett weaver Joe Carter and his wife Hannah Elizabeth (nee Stephenson) who were married in 1877.

On the 12th of November 1897, aged 19 years and one month, Joseph Henry Carter enlisted in the Militia and had 90 days Drill experience before, on the 13th of December 1898, he enlisted, at Oxford, in the Oxfordshire Light Infantry. He was certified fit for service on the same day and it was recorded that his trade was a collier. He was 5’ 5 1/8" tall and weighed 136 lbs. His eyes were grey and his hair brown. His little finger on his left hand, was contracted due to an accident. There was a tattoo of a heart on his right forearm and hand, pierced by an arrow and bearing the word "Love" and the letter "M". His attestation records that he had previously served in the Militia, in the 3rd Battalion of the Yorkshire Light Infantry. He signed up for a total of twelve years with seven years in the Colours and five years in the Reserve. Private J.H. Carter was first posted on the 5th of February 1900 to South Africa and secondly on the 5th of March 1902 to India, although he did not arrive there until the 20th of March 1902.

He was awarded a South African War Gratuity on the 17th of September 1902 and posted a third time on the 15th of October 1903. On 1st of April 1904 his conduct was recorded as "good" which was marked by a good conduct medal. He was permitted to extend his service to complete 8 years with the Colours, which meant he would then serve the 4 years balance of his 12 years service in the Reserve to which he was transferred on the 10th of February 1907.

In December 1899, the Second Boer War began and the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry arrived in Southern Africa to take part in the fighting. It saw extensive service in the conflict, including in the relief of the besieged British garrison at Kimberley and in the defeat of the Boers at Paardeberg in February. The war raged on for a further two years and the regiment saw extensive service for the duration of the conflict. The Oxfordshires returned to the UK in 1902 with the conclusion of the war. It moved to India the following year where it was based until the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.

Joseph Henry (29) and Minnie Brooke married at Ossett Holy Trinity Church on the 23rd of May 1908. Joseph was of Dale St and Minnie of Dewsbury Rd. Both their fathers were deceased: Joe Carter, a weaver and George Brooke, a blacksmith. Joseph and Minnie Carter had a child, Martha, born in 1909 and they lived at Thomlinson's Yard, Dale Street, Ossett.

In 1911, Flushdyke born Joseph Henry and Street Side born Minnie are living at 3, Tomlinson's Yard, Dale Street, Ossett with Gawthorpe born, Martha Carter aged two. Joseph is a mill hand working for a mungo manufacturer and Minnie is a rag sorter working for a rag merchant.

Joseph Carter's 12 years service would have expired on the 12th of December 1910 and he was formally discharged that day, but he had already been re-engaged at Pontefract on 6th December 1910 when he was, again, transferred to the Army Reserve for 4 years (which was subsequently extended in December 1914). He was next mobilised and posted on 5th August 1914. This was the day after the outbreak of WW1. Private 5982, Joseph Henry Carter was aged 36 when he was posted to the 2nd Oxford & Bucks on the 8th of November 1914. He had kept the same Regimental number since he signed on in 1898.

Private Carter saw service in France for just over a year, from the 8th November 1914 to the 9th December 1915. On 8th November 1914, Private 27773, Joseph Henry Carter embarked from Southampton to France with the B.E.F. and on the 12th May 1915, some 17 years after he first enlisted, he was wounded for the first time. The wound to his left shoulder was sufficiently serious for him to be admitted to hospital at Boulogne on the 14th May 1915. Private Carter's regiment had moved to the Bethune Sector in preparation for the Battle of Festubert. The "Regimental Chronicles of The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Vol 24 (1914-1915)" have this extract for the day Joseph Carter was wounded:

"May 12th.—Plenty of shelling again today, both on breastworks and communication trenches. Our officers and men have worked most splendidly in bringing in wounded from between the lines. In most cases the men were marked down by day and brought in at night; but both Fowke and Private Jones did exceptionally gallant work in rescuing wounded men in broad daylight. In the evening we were relieved by the Inniskillings, and returned to billets at Richebourg St. Vaast. We had 4 men wounded today."

He was transferred to Rouen on the 21st May and on the 1st June, he is moved to "Con Camp Rouen" for convalescence. Private Carter recovered sufficiently to return to action "in the field" by the 2nd December 1915 and on the 8th December 1915 he was transferred to England for discharge.

Festubert during WW1

Above: The wrecked village of Festubert in May 1915.

He spent 3 days at home until the 11th December 1915 when his Army Service amounted to 17 years and he was 37 years of age. He was formally discharged "on the termination of his first period of engagement", which was effectively Joseph Carter being placed once again on the army reserve list. He was recalled a year later and returned to his old regiment in France. He died in hospital in France on the 11th June 1918 after being fatally wounded, just short of his 40th birthday, and the Armistice. He had served his Country for more than 20 years – more than half of his life.

The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this report:

"This week, the wife of Private Carter (39) of Dewsbury-road, Ossett, has received a letter from an Army Chaplain, stating that her husband died in hospital in France on the 11th inst. from injuries to the head, received on the battlefield. Deceased, who used to work at Temperance Mills, was an army reservist and was called to rejoin his regiment at the outbreak of the war. Taking part in the Battle of Mons, he was wounded in the left shoulder, though he was not allowed home at the time, but in December 1915, he received his discharge and returned home. About a year later, he was recalled to the army, and returned to the Western front."

The 2/4th Battalion was formed at Oxford in September 1914 as a second line unit. In January 1915, the battalion moved to Northampton and was attached to 184th Brigade in 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. They then moved to Writtle and quickly on to Broomfield (Essex) in April 1915. In January 1916, they moved to Parkhouse Camp, Salisbury Plain and on the 24th May 1916 they landed in France.

Joseph Henry Carter was awarded the British, Victory and the 1914 Star medals. The 1914 Star was approved in 1917, for issue to officers and men of British forces who served in France or Belgium between 5 August and midnight 22/23 November 1914. The majority of recipients were officers and men of the pre-war British army, specifically the British Expeditionary Force (the Old Contemptibles), who landed in France soon after the outbreak of the War and who took part in the Retreat from Mons.

There is no specific battle that Private Carter could have been wounded in, but from the "The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry" 2, there is detail of the 2/4th battalion's movements from the end of May 1918. It seems likely that Private Carter may have been fatally wounded by German shelling or possibly by a German aircraft raid:

"At the end of May, 1918, when the whereabouts of his next attack were yet uncertain, the enemy's power reached its apparent zenith. A Canadian corps had been in reserve along the line of the La Bassée Canal for three weeks in expectation of a renewed attempt against Hazebrouck and Béthune. From prisoners' statements more than once an attack upon the Battalion seemed imminent and special precautions were adopted. All this time our artillery had been recovering its ascendancy, until the enemy, cooped up as he was within a salient bounded by canals, became faced with the two alternatives of attack or retreat. Meanwhile his aircraft used the fine nights of the early summer to wreak the utmost spite on our back area. During one night Aire, which had hitherto been left unscathed was so severely bombed that one could have fancied the next day that the town had been convulsed by an earthquake. St. Omer, though less damaged, was frequently attacked. In northern France the visits of German aeroplanes became such that all towns, alike by military and civil populations, came to be deserted before nightfall.

Towards the end of May, when the frontage of the Brigade was changed from one to two battalions, we had to give up Baquerolle and Carvin and occupy instead the barren fields on the other side of the Calonne road, where most wretched front-line accommodation existed. Headquarters for the new sector were in Les Amusoires; and rations came up each night as far as a farm, called Tripp's Farm, forward of which neither cooking could be done nor any water obtained. One night German shelling, that tune to which rations were usually carried, set light to Tripp's Farm. Quartermaster-Sergeants, mules' heads, and guides were mingled in the glare, while from a concrete pill-box hard by machine-gunners (its rightful occupants) were compelled to avoid roasting by flight. About this time both St. Venant and Robecq were burning for several days. Of the former, most of the remaining houses near the church (which had been frequently struck) were destroyed, but in Robecq the fire almost confined itself to the famous café near the cross-roads. To quench these conflagrations no measures were, or could be, taken, for their occurrence was a great gratification to the German artillery, which always redoubled its efforts in the hope of spreading a fire as far as possible."

Whilst he was never promoted above the lowest rank of Private, Joseph Henry’s military career, was long, colourful and varied. His postings were as follows:

Joseph Henry Carter Service History

His record also shows that he had no certificates of education; had passed no classes of instruction and had never been wounded or injured. However, he had been awarded the "South Africa 2 Clasps and the Cape Colony Orange Free State Kings South African Medal Clasps 1901-2." Elsewhere, his medals and awards are shown as two G.O. Badges & the "King & Queen’s S African Medals with 5 clasps."

His conduct is recorded as "very good, strictly sober" and in 1907, his musketry classification was "2nd-class shot." In the same year, aged 28 years and 4 months, he was 5’ 6” tall, chest measurement 38”, waist 30”, helmet size 221/2, boot size 7.4 with a fresh complexion, grey eyes, brown hair. His intended place of residence was Mitchells Row, Dale Street, Ossett. He had a tattoo on his right forearm and his little finger, left hand was contracted/deformed from an accident.

His next of kin are recorded as his father Joe Carter of Dewsbury Workhouse, Yorkshire and his mother as Annie Elizabeth Carter of Pepper Alley, Gawthorpe, Yorkshire. He had two sisters, one brother and was married to Minnie Brooke with one child, Martha Carter, born 10 March 1909. Whilst being praised on various occasions for good conduct and sobriety the "Regimental Defaulter Book" tells a very different story.

Whilst being praised on various occasions for good conduct and sobriety the Regimental Defaulter Book tells a very different story:

1. At Currough Co. Kildare Ireland on the 20th June 1899: dirty and Improperly dressed, parading with the defaulters. Absent from parade 7 a.m. to 7.10 a.m. at recruits Musketry on the 21st of June 1899. Refusing to turn out for parade when ordered by Corporal Hickman on the 21st of June. Punishment was 72 hours imprisonment with hard labour.

2. At Currough, Co. Kildare Ireland on the 13 July 1899: selling one kersey track and one pair of tweed trousers. Deficient of the following articles of kit viz one bible and prayer book, one jersey, one flannel Shirt, two pairs of socks, one sponge and one towel. Punishment was 96 hours imprisonment with hard labour.

3. At Deesa, India on the 4th of August 1902: absent from Commanding Officer’s parade at 6.30 a.m. Punishment was 10 days confined to barracks.

4. At Saddleworth, Yorkshire on the 3rd of September 1907 (reported by the civil police), convicted at Saddleworth Petty Sessions of begging in a public place. At this time Joseph was on Army Reserve having been in the Regular Army for eight years until the 10th of February 1907. Punishment was seven days hard labour at Strangeways Prison in Manchester.

The "Squadron, Troop, Battery and Company Defaulter Book" makes similar reading:

5. At Mullinger, Ireland on the 6 of May 1899: not having his hair cut when warned to do so. Punishment was two days confined to barracks.

6. At Currough, Co. Kildare, Ireland on the 23 of May 1899: dirty & improperly dressed for defaulter’s drill at 2 p.m. Punishment was two days confined to barracks.

7. At Currough, Co. Kildare, Ireland on the 25th of May 1899: very dirty on recruits drill at 8.45 a.m. Punishment was five days confined to barracks.

8. At Currough, Co. Kildare, Ireland on the 2nd of June 1899: not shaving when ordered and improperly dressed when parading for adjutants drill at 8.45 a.m. Punishment was two days confined to barracks.

9. At Currough, Co. Kildare, Ireland on the 17 June 1899: not wearing a regulation shirt, contrary to regimental orders. Being deficient of a flannel shirt and not reporting loss of same. Punishment was seven days confined to barracks.

10. At Currough, Co. Kildare, Ireland on the 20th of June 1899: dirty and improperly dressed when parading. Punishment was two days confined to barracks.

11. At Limerick, Ireland on the 15th of January 1900: absent from the 11 a.m. parade until found in his barrack room at 12.30 p.m. Punishment was three days confined to barracks.

12. At Deesa, India on the 2nd of August 1902: irregular conduct, talking when on sentry duty. Punishment was three days confined to barracks.

13. At Deesa, India on the 4th of August 1902: absent from Commanding Officer's parade at 6.30 a.m. Punishment was ten days confined to barracks.

14. At Poona, India on the 28th of April 1903: slackness in turning out the guard to the Orderly Officer. Punishment was three days confined to barracks and extra guard duty.

During his period in India between March 1902 and February 1907, Joseph Carter is recorded in Colaba on his arrival on the 20th March 1902, in Deesa (arrived 15th June 1902) 2/4th August 1902, Poona (arrived 11 March 1903) on the 28th of April 1903 and the 15th of October 1903. Umballa, where he arrived on the 18th of October 1903. Subathu, where he arrived on the 21st of March 1904 and Lucknow on the 12th of January 1907.

In between his periods of poor conduct in India he also managed to contract gonorrhea in Colaba where he spent 15 days in hospital in May 1902. He suffered similarly at Deesa with two hospital confinements with the same problem. In June 1902 he had 9 days in hospital and a further 14 days in July 1902. This was followed by 41 days in hospital from mid-September 1902 with "soft chancre", a bacterial sexually transmitted infection.

Once recovered he suffered with ague in Deesa in December 1902 when he was hospitalised for 16 days. This recurred in Poona on three occasions in June and July 1903, when he was hospitalised for 9 days and two stays of 8 days each. Ague is a fever marked by paroxysms of chills, fever and sweating. This had cleared up by the time he arrived in Umballa on the 25th of October 1903, but in March 1904, he was once more hospitalised, this time for 19 days, once again with gonorrhea.

British trrops in India circa 1903

Above: British troops on the move in India in 1903.

His service in India ended in February 1907, by which time he had served 9 years in the Colours and he was transferred to the Reserve where he served for a further 3 years, extended by another 5 years, which would, were it not for the outbreak of WW1, have taken him to 1915. This period in the Reserve, between 1907 and 1914, was served at home and thus he was recorded in Ossett in the 1911 census. But Joseph Henry Carter was an Army man through and through and on the 5th of August 1914, he answered his country’s call and was mobilised then posted the same day.

We think Joseph Henry Carter was a very brave and a very tough man who served his country well. His army disciplinary record is probably typical of many others at the time and is reproduced here as an historical record to show life as it was for regular soldiers at the turn of the century. After Private Carter was discharged to the army reserve in 1907, it is very likely that the transition to civilian life wasn't easy and the unusual instance of begging was forced on to him by extremely difficult circumstances.

Private Joseph Carter is buried at the Aire Communal Cemetery 2, Pas de Calais, France at grave reference III. C. 4. Aire is a town about 14 Kms south-south-east of St. Omer. From March 1915 to February 1918, Aire was a busy but peaceful centre used by Commonwealth forces as corps headquarters.

The Highland Casualty Clearing Station was based there as was the 39th Stationary Hospital (from May 1917) and other medical units. Plot I contains burials from this period. The burials in plots II, III and IV (rows A to F) relate to the fighting of 1918, when the 54th Casualty Clearing Station came to Aire and the town was, for a while, within 13 kilometres of the German lines.

The cemetery now contains 894 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and a few French and German war graves.


1. "Ossett Observer", 22nd June 1918.

2. "The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry", G. K. Rose.

3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site