Rifleman A/1943 Joseph Clifford Heath

Killed in Action on Friday, 30th July 1915, age 31.
Commemorated on Panel 51 and 53 of Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

9th Bn., King's Royal Rifle Corps. 41st Brigade of 14th Division.

Son of Mr Eli and Mrs Felicia Heath, of Dudley Port, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Blackheath, Enlisted: Birmingham, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 19th May 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1613592/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Joseph Clifford Heath registered September quarter 1884 at Dudley.

1901 Census
159 Cannock Road, Park Village, Wolverhampton.
Eli Heath (54, Iron Roller, born Netherton), his wife Felicia (53, born Rowley), and their 3 children: Alban W. (26, Student, born Netherton), Horace W. (19, Cabinet Maker, born Netherton), and Joseph C. (16, Printer, born Rowley).

1911 Census
162 Cannock Road, Park Village, Wolverhampton.
Eli Heath (64, Insurance Commission Agent, born Netherton), his wife Felicia (63, born Rowley), and 2 of their 4 surviving children of 7: Horace W. (29, Cabinet Maker, born Netherton), and Joseph C. (26, Compositor, born Blackheath).

Personal Data

Joseph's Army Numbers begins with A signifying he was an Army Reservist.

Action resulting in his death

The 9th King's Royal Rifle Brigade (KRRC) was in 42nd Brigade of 14th (Light) Division, one of the six initial Kitchener Divisions authorised in August 1914. Training started in September at Woking moving to Aldershot where they received their equipment and completed their training under terrible conditions and most of the time was spent in tents in winter rain and floods.

Training completed, the Division embarked at Folkestone on the 21st May 1915 landing at Boulogne. They moved by train to Cassel, marching to Volkerinckhove and Bailleul where they were employed on work in the local defences. In June 1915 they moved into Belgium, taking over the Hooge Sector on the 23rd July.

At 7pm on 19th July 1915, a large mine was exploded by 175th Tunnelling Company R.E., under a German strongpoint at Hooge. The spoil from the detonation threw up a lip 15 feet high, around a crater 20 feet deep and 120 feet wide. After the firing, it was immediately occupied by two Companies of the 4th Middlesex. British artillery quelled all signs of German attempts to recover the crater.

German retaliation came on 30th July 1915. At 3.15am, the ruins of the Stables were blown up, and jets of flame shot across from the German trenches. This was the first time that the Germans had used liquid fire flamethrowers against the British. Immediately a deluge of fire of all kinds fell on the 41st Brigade who held the crater, and on all support positions back to Zouave Wood and Sanctuary Wood. The Germans achieved complete surprise, but although the British front lines were evacuated, they did not follow beyond them. There was intensive hand-to-hand fighting in some trenches; eventually virtually all of the positions held by the Brigade were lost.

The 42nd Brigade was in support on the left in Zouave Wood, and were not attacked. Orders were issued for a counter-attack by the 41st and 42nd Brigades at 2.45pm after a feeble 45-minute bombardment.

The 9th KRRC attacked alongside the Menin Road, but nothing was achieved with no one getting closer than 150 yards to the new German positions. After half an hour the attack was called off. During the night, another German flamethrower attack was repulsed, but further efforts by the 14th Division on the 31st came to nothing against heavy German shellfire. A further British attack on the 9th August reclaimed the area lost during this German attack.

97 men and 8 officers of the 9th KRRC were killed during the 30th and 31st July, amongst them Tipton men Joseph Heath and Ernest Whitehouse. Neither Joseph nor Ernest have a known grave, and both are commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Newspaper Cuttings

Dudley Herald 14th August 1916
News has been received at his home in Dudley Port of the death of Rifleman J.C. Heath, 9th King's Royal Rifles, formerly of Wolverhampton. The deceased soldier enlisted immediately after the outbreak of war. He went to France during Whit-week. The officer who conveyed the sad news said: "I can assure you that he is frightfully missed, and all our late officers spoke most highly of him as a headquarters orderly. He was carrying a message to our late colonel at the time of his death. I only saw him once or twice, although he was in my platoon, and I was always struck with his personal character. I trust that you will be comforted to know that he died nobly doing his duty for King and Country."