Private 5173 Joshua Roper

Killed in Action on Thursday, 14th January 1915, age 47.
Commemorated on Panel 26 and 27 of Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

1st Bn., Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt.). 24th Brigade of 8th Division.

Born: Dudley Port, Enlisted: Mansfield, Notts, Resident: Shirebrook, Derbys.

First landed France & Flanders, 11th December 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
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/1561393/

Genealogical Data

1871 Census
Dudley Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Robert Roper (47, Miner, born Staffs), his wife Ann Maria (43, born Staffs), and their 8 children: Francis (18, born Staffs), Timothy (16, born Staffs), Sarah J. (15, born Staffs), William (13, born Staffs), Martha (11, born Staffs), Naomi (9, born Staffs), (Joshua, 4, born Staffs), and Mary (2, born Staffs).

1881 Census
16 Old Street, Sedgley, Dudley.
Robert Roper (59, Coal Miner, born Sedgley), his wife Ann M. (52, born Dudley), and their 4 children: William H. (22, Coal Miner, born West Bromwich), Martha (20, born West Bromwich), Joshua (14, Coal Miner, born Tipton), and Mary (9, born Tipton).

1891 Census
Cannot trace, possibly with the 2nd Worcesters.

1901 Census
New Village, Creswell, Derbyshire.
Lodging in household of William H Franklin (44, Coal Hewer, born Bilston), was: Joshua Roper (35, Boarder, Coal Miner/Coal Hewer, born Dudley Port).

This is Joshua as it ties up with his attestation, but with a census error regarding age and place of birth.
1911 Census
14 Vernon Street, Shirebrook, Mansfield, Notts.
Lodging in household of Joshua Smith (58, Miner, born Rowley), and his wife Sarah Jane (48, born Staffs), was: Joshua Roper (47, Boarder, Coal Miner - Hewer, born Plumtree, Notts).

Personal Data

Joshua attested for the 1st Bn. Sherwood Foresters on 3rd November 1914 in Mansfield. He gave age as 43 years and 270 days. He was actually born in March quarter 1867 possibly making him 47 years and 270 days.

Joshua stated that he was a Reservist having served with the 2nd Bn. Worcesters. His address was given as 14 Vernon Street, Shirebrook where he had lodged for 5½ years with Mrs Jane Smith; Mrs Smith received his effects and medals. It is possible that Jane was Joshua's sister. He was recorded as being 5 feet 5 inches tall with a 37½-inch chest measurement. He had blue eyes and fair complexion and was employed as a groom. Both his parents were dead, and no siblings were recorded although there were many.

After Joshua's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances was paid to his 'sole legatee' Mrs Jane Smith in September 1915; this amounted to £4/8/9d (4 pounds, 8 shillings and 9 pence). In August 1919, Joshua's War Gratuity of £3/0/0d was also paid to Mrs Jane Smith.

Action resulting in his death

Only 5 weeks after attesting, Joshua landed in France on 11th December 1914 and joined the 1st Battalion. After arriving in France in November 1914, the 1st Sherwood Foresters, as part of 8th Division, were in trenches facing Neuve Chapelle. A number of small raids had been undertaken, but no major attacks had been made. Frostbite took a heavy toll, and conditions were horrific with most of the trenches held by the 8th Division being 3-feet deep in water, and often in a state of collapse. The Germans were suffering in a similar fashion, and offensive actions were restricted to sniping fire.

The battalion had been alternating between the front line facing Neuve Chapelle (near Port Arthur) and in reserve at La Gorgue and Pont du Hem; on the 12th January they relieved the 2nd East Lancs in the front line. The next days were generally described as 'quiet days' and the battalion spent most of the time building new breast-works behind the existing front line in case they were flooded out. A breast-work is in effect an above-ground trench, genearlly built because the ground is unsuitable for trenches due to flooding. It is a wall of earth, rubble and anything to hand, built to give protection from enemy fire.

The War Diary for 14th January records: "Quiet day. Work on breastworks is carried on by night. Rather less rain than usual." It also reports that 2 Other Ranks were killed bringing the total of Other Ranks killed to 42 to date. One of these 2 men was Joshua Roper, most likely from sniper fire. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings