Lance Corporal 7854 Joseph Masters

Masters Joseph Memorial Gates 96
Great Wyrley Memorial Gates.

Killed in Action on Saturday, 7th November 1914, age 31.
Commemorated on Panel 34 of Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

3rd Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 7th Brigade of 3rd Division.

Husband of Mrs Martha Rose Masters, of 164 Station Street, Cheslyn Hay, Staffordshire.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Dudley, Resident: Landywood, Staffs.

First landed France & Flanders, 12th August 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Cheslyn Hay War Memorial, and Great Wyrley Memorial Gates.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/906288/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Joseph Masters registered December quarter 1883 in Dudley.

1901 Census
39 Church Lane, Tipton, Staffs.
Mary Masters (50, Widow, born Hinckley), and her 7 children: Arthur (31, Gas Holder Helper, born Hinckley), George (20, Horse Drive Underground at Colliery, born Tipton), Joseph (17, Hammer Driver at Forge, born Tipton), Ina (15, Chaff Cutter at Colliery, born Tipton), Rose (13, born Tipton), Ethel (11, born Tipton), and Ernest (9, born Tipton).

1911 Census
188 Station Street, Cheslyn Hay, Staffs.
Boarding in the house of his parents-in-law, Joseph and Eliza Buckley:
Joseph Masters (27, Signalman on L. &N.W. Railway, born Dudley Port), his wife Martha Rose (29, born Cheslyn Hay) and their daughter Adelaide Doreen (3 months, born Cheslyn Hay).
Adelaide had been born on 25th December 1910, a further child, Joseph Kenneth, was born on 26th September 1914. Sadly Joseph would never see his son as he landed in France a month before his son was born, and was dead by the time his son was 6 weeks old.

Personal Data

At the outbreak of war Joseph Masters was a signalman in Wyrley railway station. Joseph was either a Reservist after having been a serving soldier with the Worcesters, or a Special Reservist. He was one of the original "Old Contemptibles", according to his Medal Index Card landing in France on 12th August 1914, although the 3rd Division are recorded as landing in Rouen on 16th August.

After Joseph's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £4/3/3d (4 pounds, 3 shillings and 3 pence); this was paid to his widow, Martha Rose, in June 1915. His War Gratuity was £5/0/0d (5 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Martha Rose in July 1919.

Joseph's widow, Martha Rose, was awarded a pension of 18/6d (18 shillings and 6 pence) per week for herself and the 2 children, effective from 5th July 1915. This was increased to £1/1/0d (1 pound and 1 shilling) from 29th September 1916.

Action resulting in his death

The 3rd Worcesters landed in France on 16th August and were sent to Mons. Here the overwhelming numerical superiority of the German army made a general withdrawal inevitable. As the British front-line began to retreat from Mons on the 23rd August, the 3rd Worcesters at Ciply became the most advanced unit. The 'Retreat from Mons' continued for over 200 miles to the River Marne, with holding actions at Caudry and Le Cateau.

By 5th September the German army had outrun their supply columns and could not with withstand the French assault at the Marne. The Germans were now driven back to the Aisne where they dug in on the high ground, forcing the British and French to dig their own protective trenches. This was the start of the trenches of the Western Front. In early October the 3rd Worcesters moved from the Aisne to Flanders where they fought in the battle of La Bassee, remaining in that area all of October. In the actions so far, 170 Other Ranks from the 3rd Worcesters had lost their lives.

Due to losses in all divisions, the 3rd Division were temporarily to be broken up. The 3rd Worcesters were allocated to the 4th Division and by 6th November were in Ploegsteert Wood. On that day fog in the Lys valley limited visibility to just 50 yards, and their shallow, water-logged trenches on the eastern edge of the wood gave little cover from the violent bombardment. The expected attack came at 5am on 7th November, the German attackers overpowered the centre of the Worcesters line and the few survivors were forced back to warn the reserves. A counter-attack resulted in a confused and costly struggle just inside the wood, and reinforcements later in the day still failed to dislodge the Germans from their newly-won position.

Joseph Masters is recorded as being killed on 7th November, but the letter (see below) from Private Evan Joseph says he was killed on the 6th from a bullet wound to the head. 76 Other Ranks of the 3rd Worcesters are recorded as killed on the 7th November, with just 1 man shown as killed on the 6th. Given the confusion of these days, errors in recording casualties are not surprising and given the German bombardment more casualties could have been expected on the 6th November.

Joseph Masters has no known grave, and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

Newspaper Cuttings

Cannock Advertiser November 21st 1914
A Soldier's Grave.
Lance-Corporal Masters killed in action.
Just after writing a letter to Mr. W. Buckley of Coventry Road, Bedworth, Lance-Corporal J. Masters, of the 3rd Worcester Regiment, who was a signalman at Wyrley Station, received a fatal bullet wound in the head. Private Evan Joseph, a comrade in arms, found the letter addressed to Buckley on Masters, and in forwarding it he writes: "I expect you will, 'ere this, have been informed of the fate which has overtaken my friend and comrade, 7854 Lance-Corporal Masters, and it is with the deepest sympathy that I have undertaken this painful duty of informing you that he met his death, which was instantaneous, by a bullet wound in the head on November 6th, and was laid to rest in a soldier's grave near a place called Plogsteert (sic), Belgium. I am writing this in the hope you will please break the sad news to his friends and dear relations, and that it will also be a little comfort to them in their bereavement to know how he met his end."
Lance-Corporal Masters was well known in the Cannock district, having as secretary to the local branch of the National Union of Railwaymen, and taken an active part in the Trade Union movement. He leaves a widow and two young children.
Article and photograph courtesy of wyrleyblog.wordpress.com.

Cannock Chase Courier November 21st 1914
Lance Corporal Joseph Masters.
lt is feared that Lance Corporal Joseph Masters, formerly of Cheslyn Hay, and of the 3rd Battalion, Worcester Regiment, has fallen on the battlefield. It is well known that the Worcesters did their share at Mons, and also in the events that followed. Probably the Worcesters received as heavy a punishment as most of the regiments. Lance Corporal Masters was, it seems, engaged in action, when a bullet hit him on his head and killed him instantly. A comrade on searching his clothing found a letter containing a stamped addressed envelope to a brother-in-law at Bedworth, and his comrade wrote a letter, and forwarded it, giving particulars and further stating that the gallant Worcester from Cheslyn Hay was buried in a soldier's grave. Up to Wednesday, however, no official notice had been received of the sad intelligence. The brother-in-law broke the sad news to the wife and father-in-law. The latter resides at Station Street, Cheslyn Hay, where until about a fortnight before Joseph Masters was called up as a reservist he resided. The following is a copy of the letter written by Private Evan Joseph, who was a pal of Masters:
“I expect you will 'ere this have been informed of the fate which has overtaken my friend and comrade, 7854, Lance-Corporal Masters. It is with the deepest sympathy I have undertaken the painful duty of informing you that he met his death, which was instantaneous, by a bullet wound in the head, at noon, on November 6th. He was laid to rest in a soldier’s grave near the place called Ploegsteert, Belgium. I am writing this with the hope that you will please break the sad news to his friends and dear relations, and that it will also be a little comfort to them in their bereavement to know how he met his end. I am also enclosing a letter which was found in his possession”.
Masters was a native of Tipton, and was at one time secretary of the Hednesford Branch, of the N.U.R. He was something of a boxer, and an impulsive man, but withal a good-hearted chap, and apparently fearless. Hence he was popular with his colleagues, while as to the neighbours he served them on occasion, at least, a good turn. It had been the custom of some young fellows to visit Cheslyn Hay, and late at night, returning home, "making night hideous," by the noise they created. On one occasion he tackled four and beat them. He was at that time a signalman at the Great Wyrley Station He leaves a widow and two children.

Above newspaper article courtesy of Joe Devereux.