Lance-Corporal Joseph Megson, 42006, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own), 2nd/5th Battalion
Joseph Megson was born in Ossett in 1877, the son of Ossett-born Benjamin Oldroyd Megson and Harriet (nee Newsome) who had married in the Dewsbury registration district in 1875. In 1901, the Megson family were living in Providence Street, Earlsheaton and Joseph now has two siblings, one being Willie Megson who became a professional cricketer in the early 1900s. Benjamin O. Megson is self-employed as an oil trucker and in 1906 he was working as a commercial traveller.
In 1905, Joseph Megson married Mary Walker Lumb in Ossett, but the couple had moved to live at Half Penny Lane, Featherstone in 1911 when Joseph was working as a byeworker in a coal mine. There were at least two children: Dorothy born in Ossett in 1908 and Reginald, born in Featherstone in 1910. The Megsons later moved back to Ossett and lived at 31, Ryecroft Street.
Joseph Megson enlisted at Pontefract in the 2nd/5th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, which was founded at York on the 28th September 1914. On the 1st March 1915 they came under orders of 185th Brigade, 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division. The battalion moved on the 1st of March 1915 to Matlock and on in May to Thoresby Park, going on in October 1915 to Retford, November to Newcastle, January 1916 to Salisbury Plain and June 1916 to Somerleyton near Lowestoft. In October 1916 they moved to Bedford and finally landed at Le Havre in January 1917.
On 20th November 1917 185 Brigade attacked the village of Havrincourt. The 2/5th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment attacked up the east side of the village. They were supposed to be supported by Tanks of G Battalion but they advanced most of the way without them. That day at Havrincourt all four second-line Territorial Battalions (2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and the 2/8th West Yorkshires of the 185th Brigade) had, with other troops of the 62nd (West Riding) Division, accomplished what, up to that period, was destined to be known as the record infantry advance in any one day.
62nd Division broke through both the Hindenburg Main and Support Lines, occupying Havrincourt and Graincourt, and by the end of the day had crossed the Bapaume-Cambrai road. This represented an advance of 7km in one day, an outstanding achievement at that time. The next day the division took Anneux and the tanks entered Bourlon Wood, but the infantry were too exhausted to follow them. 2/5 West Yorks took the German trenches overlooking Bourlon village.1
The "Ossett Observer" 2 had this obituary for Joe Megson under the heading of "Another Popular Ossett Cricketer Killed - Joe Megson Makes the Great Sacrifice":
"Among those who have sacrificed their lives in recent fighting is another prominent member of the Ossett Cricket and Athletic Club, in the person of Lance-corporal Joseph Megson, of the West Yorkshire Regiment. Deceased, whose home was 31, Ryecroft-street, Ossett was forty years of age, and leaves a widow and two children. The official news of his death reached Mrs. Megson on Thursday morning, and will be greatly regretted by a large circle of friends.
Yesterday (Friday) morning, Mrs. Megson received a letter from deceased's company officer, who, in tendering his sympathy, said that Lance-corporal Megson was killed in action. The writer proceeds:
'He was in charge of the bombing section of my platoon, and went into the attack on the morning of the 20th with me. He was shot through the head about nine o'clock, and died instantaneously, so I can assure that he would suffer no pain whatever. He is buried in a graveyard near, besides a few brave comrades who fell the same day. I must say that in Lance-corporal Megson I have lost one of the best and most competent of my non-commissioned officers, and one who was a great help to me. He was also a brave fellow, and led his section well - a man whom anyone would admire. You may also convey to his parents and family my very deepest sympathy.'
A native of Earlsheaton, Lance-corporal Megson was for many years a member of Chickenley Cricket Club before he came to Ossett, and at one time played football with the Dewsbury Club. Previous to joining the army in January last he was in the rag business. He went to the front in April.
A brother of his, Private Percy Megson, another prominent member of the Chickenley Club, was killed in the war over a year ago."
The "Batley News" 3 ran a similar obituary for Lance-Corporal Megson:
"Chickenley Rag Merchant and Cricketer Killed - Led His Section Bravely - As briefly reported last week, Lance-Corporal Joe Megson (40), West Yorks, third son of Mr. and Mrs Ben Megson, The Common, Earlsheaton, was killed in action on November 20th. On Saturday his widow, who lives in Ryecroft Street, Ossett, received a letter of sympathy from the deceased's company officer who adds:
'He was in charge of the bombing section of my platoon, and went into the attack on the morning of the 20th with me. He was shot through the head about 9 o'clock and died instantaneously. I may say that in Lance-Corporal Megson I have lost one of the most competent of my NCOs and one who was of great help to me. He was also a brave fellow and led his section well - a man whom everyone would admire. You may frankly convey to his parents and family my very deep sympathy.'
Lance-Corporal Megson was well-known as a professional cricketer. At one time he played with the Yorkshire Colts, but was more successful in Council cricket, having assisted among other clubs, Chickenley, Ossett, Morley, and Featherstone. On joining up at the beginning of this year he was in business as a rag merchant at Chickenley. His youngest brother, Percy Megson, another well-known cricketer, was killed in action in September 1916. His other tow brothers, George Arthur and Willie are on active service."
Lance-Corporal Megson was killed in action at the age of 40 on the 20th November 1917 in the fighting to take Havrincourt. He was awarded the Victory and British medals posthumously.
Above: German prisoners at Havrincourt on the 20th November 1917.
Lance-Corporal Joseph Megson is buried at grave reference B. 5 in the Grand Ravine British Cemetery, Havrincourt 4, Pas de Calais, France. Havrincourt is a village approximately 10 kilometres south west of Cambrai and 3 kilometres south of the Cambrai to Bapaume road (N30).
Havrincourt village was stormed by the 62nd (West Riding) Division on the 20th November 1917. It was lost on the 23rd March 1918, but it was retaken on the 12th of September by the 62nd (West Riding) Division, who held it against a counter-attack the following day.
Grand Ravine British Cemetery consists of three rows of graves. Row B was made by the 62nd Division Burial Officer in December 1917, and Rows A and C by the same officer in October 1918. The cemetery contains 139 First World War burials, 11 of them unidentified.
2. "Ossett Observer", 15th December 1917
3. "Batley News", 22nd December 1917