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Joseph Spedding Fisher

Gunner Joseph Spedding Fisher, 113459, Royal Garrison Artillery, 184th Siege Battery

Joseph Spedding Fisher was born in Chickenley on the 27th October 1887 and baptised at the Chickenley Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on the 12th March 1888. Joseph was the second child and second son of Harry Fisher and his wife Sarah (nee Spedding) who married locally in 1884. The couple had seven children from their marriage but one child died before April 1911. The surviving children comprised four boys and two girls, born between 1884 and 1900.

In 1891 John Fisher, a painter from Whitley, and Chickenley-born Sarah with their three children were living in Chickenley and in 1901 John and Sarah, now with six children, were living on Chickenley Lane. Joseph S. Fisher, now aged 13 was a machine minder in a woollen mill. In 1911 the family were still living at 84, Chickenley Lane and Joseph had joined his father in the family painting and decorating business.

On 30th October 1911 at the Parish Church, West Town, Dewsbury Joseph Fisher married Mary Louisa Cowling. After Joseph's death in WW1, his widow Mary L. Fisher married Sidney Fawcett in the Dewsbury Registration district in 1921 and they lived at 21, Blacksmith Fold, Alverthorpe, Wakefield.

Joseph Spedding Fisher, a painter and decorator, of 2, Queen Street, Chickenley Lane, Dewsbury was called up on the 7th August 1916 and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was 28 years and 10 months old, 5’ 9” tall and weighed 112 lbs, with a chest measurement of 34½ inches. He gave his wife’s name, Mary Fisher, as his next-of-kin.

Gunner Fisher was posted to the 245th Siege Battery on the 8th September 1916 and embarked for France on the 25th January 1917, disembarking at Le Havre on the 26th January 1917. He was admitted to hospital for two weeks with measles on the 8th March 1917 and admitted again for one week after being gassed on the 17th October 1917. Joseph was granted leave to the UK between the 18th January and 30th January 1918 and shortly after his return, he transferred to the 184th Siege Battery on the 5th February 1918.

184th Siege Battery was formed at Portsmouth on the 16th June 1916. After training they left Folkestone on the 12th October 1916 and arriving Boulogne the same day. The Battery was a 4 x 9.2 Howitzer battery that was made up to six guns on the 20th August 1917, with a section of personnel joining from 410th Siege Battery. This battery left Southampton on the 12 August 1917 and arrived Rouen on the 14th.

Gunner Joseph S. Fisher was most probably killed in action during the Battle of the Selle, which took place between the 17th to 25th October 1918. By the 11th October 1918, British forces had closed up upon the retreating Germans, now hastily dug-in immediately to the east of the River Selle. Haig, sensing the enemy’s near exhaustion, initiated a series of operations designed to get British troops in strength across the river, and clear a way for a move against the Sambre-Oise Canal, a further five miles to the east. After a six day halt for preparations and artillery bombardments Fourth Army troops attacked in thick mist at 5.20am on Thursday, 17th October. Infantry and tanks, preceded by a creeping barrage, moved forward on a ten mile front south of Le Cateau.

The centre and left of Fourth Army forced crossings of the river despite unexpectedly tenacious enemy resistance and much uncut wire. Fighting was particularly fierce along the line of the Le Cateau – Wassigny railway. The right of the attack, across the upland watershed of the Selle, made most progress and by nightfall enemy defences had been broken and Le Cateau captured. Severe fighting continued on the 18th and 19th October, by which time Fourth Army (much assisted by the French First Army on its right) had advanced over five miles, harrying the enemy back towards the Sambre-Oise canal. Third and First British Armies (immediately to the left, north, of Fourth Army) maintained the offensive pressure next day. In a surprise joint night attack in the early morning of the 20th October, Third Army formations secured the high ground east of the Selle.

Following a two day pause, to bring up heavy artillery, the attack was renewed on the 23rd October with a major combined assault by Fourth, Third and First Armies; the fighting, which continued into the next day, resulted in further gains. The Battle of the Selle constituted a highly significant British victory: considerable advances were made and over 20,000 prisoners taken.

On the 24th October 1918, Gunner Joseph S. Fisher suffered gunshot wounds and a fractured thigh. He was admitted to the Casualty Clearing Station No. 1 the same day, but died from wounds received in action the following day. He was buried and later his body was exhumed and reburied in the Ramillies British Cemetery.

On the 25th February 1919 Joseph’s widow received a letter from the army enclosing Joseph’s effects which comprised letters, photos, two wallet cards, note book, German silver watch (in case), watch chain (steel), aluminium ring, two cap badges, folding corkscrew and a tobacco pouch.

On the 22nd May 1919 Joseph’s widow, Mary Louisa Fisher, was awarded a pension of 13/9d a week with effect from the 12th May 1919. On the 4th June 1919, Mary Fisher was required to complete and return to the Army the usual details of the deceased’s closest relatives, which included his parents and four sisters: Charlotte (aged 29), Elsie (27), Dorothy (21) and Sarah Emma (18), who were all living at their parents' home at 84, Chickenley Lane.

Joseph's brother was Charles Fisher, Gunner 104612, R.G.A. Fire Command, Hartlepool, aged 34. Joseph Spedding Fisher was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals.

9.2" Howitzer as used in 184 Siege Battery

Above: 9.2" Howitzer which were used by 184th Siege Battery

Gunner Joseph Spedding Fisher, aged 32 years, died from wounds on the 25th October 1918 and is buried at grave reference F. 24. at Ramillies British Cemetery 1, Nord, France. Ramillies is a village approximately 3 kilometres north-east of Cambrai. The Cemetery is signposted from the centre of the village and is situated just outside Ramillies on Rue d'erre.

The village of Ramillies was captured by the Canadian Corps on the night of 8-9 October 1918. The original cemetery contained 93 graves dating from 30 September to 17 October but after the Armistice, further graves were brought into the cemetery from the following:

Escaudoeuvres Convent Cemetery, which was South-West of the village of Escaudoeuvres, close to the road to Cambrai, in the grounds of the Convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor. It contained the graves of 80 soldiers from the United Kingdom, six from Canada, 43 German soldiers and two French civilians) and Malincourt German Cemetery, which contained the grave of a Chinese labourer.

Ramillies British Cemetery now contains 180 First World War burials.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site