Uttoxeter Advertiser








Where born

Uttoxeter, Staffordshire




7a, 7p

When born

About 1877




6, 7a, 7b


Earlestown, Lancashire





Leigh Street, Earlestown





127 Leigh Street, Earlstown, Lancashire





127 Legh Street, Earlestown, Lancashire




2, 7e

Wife (after his death): 29 St. John Street, Earlestown, Lancashire




7k, 7m

Wife (after his death): 47 Picton Road, Wavertree, Liverpool










3a, 7a

Minnie Betts




7e, 7h, 7j, 7k, 7m, 7x






3a, 7n

Employment Before Joining up

Moulder at the Viaduct Works (presumably Earlestown?)










Labourer at the Viaduct Works





Where enlisted

Warrington, Lancashire




7a, 7c


South Lancashire (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers)




2, 3a, 7b, 7h, 7i, 7k, 7m, 7n, 7o, 7r, 7s, 7t, 7u, 7v, 7w, 7x


1st/4th Bn.




2, 7k, 7m, 7o

4th Bn




3a, 7b, 7n, 7o, 7p, 7s, 7t, 7u, 7v, 7w

“B” Company




2, 3a


Platoon Sergeant









2, 3a, 7i, 7k, 7m, 7n, 7o, 7s, 7u, 7v, 7w

Service Number





2, 3a, 7e, 7g, 7h, 7i, 7k, 7m, 7n, 7o, 7v, 7w, 7x

Previous Service

12 years with North Staffordshire Regiment





South African War





Date of Death

7 June 1915




2, 7c

8 June 1915





Age at time of death





3a, 7p

Where Killed or died

France or Flanders





In the Field





How he died

Killed in action




2, 3a, 7c, 7o

Killed while sniping Germans




3a, 3b

Location of Grave or Memorial

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial – Panel 37






King’s Medal (South African Campaign)




7a, 7e

Queen’s Medal (South African Campaign)




7a, 7e

1914-1915 Star




7a, 7e, 7j

British War Medal




7a, 7i

Victory Medal




7a, 7i



Joseph was born in Uttoxeter7a, 7p and at some stage moved away to Earlestown in Lancashire. Although he had moved away and made a life for himself in Lancashire, as one of Uttoxeter’s sons we include him amongst Uttoxeter’s fallen.

Before the war he was employed as a Moulder at the Viaduct Works3a (presumably Earlestown?). He was well-known in the Earlestown district as an exponent for physical culture3a, and had been the champion club swinger in the army3a.

Before serving with the South Lancashire Regiment Joseph served with the Regular Army2 and fought through the South African War2. For some years he was also quartered with his Regiment in India2.

The National Archives have preserved a wealth of documents related to Joseph and his service7. These documents allow us to piece together his military service both before and during the Great War:

Joseph joined the Territorial Force for four years on 11th February 19097a, 7c, 7e, 7o, 7v at Warrington7b, 7c. He was accepted into the 4th Battalion7b of the South Lancashire Regiment7b for four years7v.

He gave his age as 32 years and 5 months7a, 7b, which implies a date of birth around October 1877.

He also gave his occupation as “Labourer at Viaduct Works” 7a and answered “Yes” to the question “Are you now an Apprentice”? 7a. Presumably he was learning to be a moulder, as this was later given as his occupation in his obituary3a.

He was living at 26 St. John Street, Earlestown7a at the time of joining the Territorials.

He also supplied details of previous military service, stating that he had completed 12 years with the North Staffordshire Regiment7a. He had seen 2 years and nine months of active service in South Africa7a and been awarded the King’s and Queen’s South African War medals7a.

He was married7a.

His attestation papers also tell us that at the time of joining the army he was 5 ft 67b or 5 ft 77p inches tall, had a chest measurement of 347p or 35 inches7b. He weighed 140 lbs7p, had good vision7b and good physical development7b, 7p.

He had only been in the army for 3 months when on 12th May 1909, he was promoted to Sergeant7o.

Joseph attended annual training camp every year from 1910 to 1013 inclusive7c. His records7e, 7o, 7s show that he also passed classes of instruction in Signalling. The report on completion of a 41 day course at the School of Signalling, Bulford, from 5th February to 16th March 1912 said that his conduct had been good, his industry fair and his general proficiency in the subject of the course satisfactory7u. In consequence he became entitled to additional pay and allowances7u.

In a fateful decision on 6th March 1913 he re-engaged in the Territorial Force for another two years7v. Little did he realise that in doing so he would be actively serving at the outbreak of the war only 17 months later and immediately mobilised upon the outbreak of war.

His service record records that he was “embodied” on 4th August 19147c, the day that war broke out, and he signed the papers declaring himself willing to be posted overseas on 13th October 19147w. He was at the Dunfermline at this time7w.

This paper7w gives us a sample of his signature:

He embarked for France on 12th February 19157e, 7o, leaving from ~Southampton7o and disembarking at Le Havre on 13th February 19157o.

A month later, on the 12th March 1915 the Newtown and Earlestown Guardian published a letter3a that he had written, in which he spoke about his unit. The letter was dated 1st March 1915:

The following letter has been received by Mr. D. Garnett, of 10, Rathbone-street, from Platoon Sergt. J. Betts, no 704, B. Coy., 4th Bn, South Lancs Regt, British Expedition Force, whose home is in Leigh-street, Earlestown:

I dare say you will know by the time this arrives that the boys have been in the firing line, and have given a good account of themselves. It would have done your eyes good if you could have seen them. If anyone attempts to say the “Terriers” are no good, just jump on them for me, and I will settle all arguments when I come back, for they are “the goods”. The Germans shelled them for quite a long time, and they simply laughed and asked who said the Germans could shoot. The only thing the “Terriers” asked for was – “Let’s cross bayonets with them.” You would be surprised if you saw the boys now, and when you saw them last on Earlestown Market Square,

Thanks for the matches. I was just run out.

With regard to news, we are worse off than you, because we know nothing of what is going on outside our own line.

With regard to the greatest military power, Germany is not in it; they are complete cowards.

Matches, soap and notepaper are the things we most require, so if any of the boys want to do a kindnessto those away from home, here is the chance. I will gladly undertake to distribute anything sent out to the boys from Earlestown. I saw Jim Waterworth the other day. He looks in the pink of condition, but I had no time for a chat as we were on the march. I have seen several boys from Earlestown, and all are in the best of spirits.

At the time of his death he had been a member of the Territorials for five years2, and was a member of “B” Company2.

On 18th June 1915 the Newton Guardian published a brief obituary3a:

We publish below the photo of Sergt. Joseph Betts, of 127, Legh Street,Earlestown who, as reported in our last issue, was killed while fighting for his King and Country.

Sergt. Betts, who was 38 years of age, had been in the Territorials five years, ans was a member of "B" Company.  Prior to his connection with the Battalion, he served in the Regular Army, and fought through the South African War.  For some years he was quartered with his regiment in India.  He was employed before the present was at the Viaduct Works, as a moulder. He was well-known in the district as an exponent of physical culture, and as reported in our last week's issue, had been the champion club swinger in the army.

He leaves a wife and two young children.

Mrs. Betts received a letter from Captain Egerton Fairclough, which was published in the Newton Guardian on 18th June 19153a:

In the field,

8th June, 1915.

Dear Mrs. Betts,

I am very sorry to have to inform you that your husband, Sergt. Betts was unfortunately killed early this morning.  I feel his loss very keenly, as he always did his work well, and was always ready for any work, however dangerous.  Please accept my sincerest sympathy in your misfortune.  The only consolation I can offer is that he died doing his duty, and I am sure that the example he always set to other and younger men will not be forgotten.

Believe me,

  yours very sincerely,



She also received a letter from Lieutenant Holden, who was killed while writing it:

8th June, 1915.

Dear Mrs. Betts.

I am very sorry to have to write and inform you that your husband was shot this morning while engaged in sniping Germans.  He died instantaneously and suffered no pain whatever.

His death is felt very keenly by myself and all the N.C.O.'s and men in the platoon, to whom he has endeared himself by his bravery and devotion to duty. I am afraid we will never be able to replace him, as his was a character which few men possess, and his cheerfulness has carried us through many a trying day.

Please accept my deepest sympathy in your great loss, which is only softened by knowing, as I his platoon officer know, that he died a soldier.

The Newton Guardian also published a very moving letter3a sent to Mr. Eckersley, of North Ashton by his son, Lance-Corporal Harry Eckersley. Harry was a personal friend of Joseph Betts:

  "But the worst time I had was when I saw poor Sergt. Betts killed.  He was between the lines, sniping, and he had accounted for several German snipers. and was about to fire again, when the Germans had him.  He was shot through the mouth and through the neck.

When I saw him fall I ran to him, regardless of the enemy's fire, picked up his rifle and fired his last shot for him, and I believe I got the man that shot him. After that it sickened me a little.  I was so grieved I could do nothing further that day. It is very hard to lose a friend like him. We respected each other, and he always had a cheery word for me, "Well, Harry how are you going on?  Is there anything I can do for you; if there is I will do it willingly." 

That was the sort of man he was, and I was not ashamed to shed a few tears when he was dead-and I was not the only one either, for he was liked by everybody in the Battalion."


These photographs show a sniper’s loophole in Sanctuary Wood in the Ypres area. In all likelihood Joseph will have been using a loophole like this when he was killed.

On 18th June 1915 the Newtown and Earlestown Guardian also published a letter that confirmed details of how Joseph died3b. It had been received by Mr. Pierce, of 11, Stanley-Street, Earlestown from his son, Private Sam Pierce. Sam, along with his brother Percy, was doing trench work at the front:-

We have been fairly through it since I wrote last. Talk about hell with the lid off! The other night – Tuesday in fact – we were expecting an attack on our position, and only twenty-five yards separated us from the enemy. Percy was in the first line, and I in the reserve. They started rapid firing, and we thought they were coming, so off I bolt to Percy and said “Buck up, kid, I am with you.” And we were on top of the trench together, and our bayonets glittered as we fired. You would have been proud of your two little lads had you seen them then.

I am pleased to tell you that we are both in the best of health, and what do you think, when I first saw Percy he did not know me until I spoke to him. He said I looked better than I had done for years.

I am sending you a pair of cufflinks which I got from Ypres. I should have been able to send you a helmet, only I broke it – with the head inside. I gave one a “clough” with the butt, and it was heavier than I ever struck in the smithy.

I was sent to the dumping ground for a box for headquarters, and a sniper nearly had me. The bullet struck the back of my cap, but “a miss is as good as a mile”. It shook me for a while, but I soon got over it. I went up with water for Percy the other day, and when I was coming back I saw one of our chaps, named Thomas, shot through the chest on the same road as I had just gone over. They had a machine gun trained on the road.

We have been examined by the doctor this morning, and you know what that means. You will be reading great things shortly now. Have you heard that Joe Betts has been killed? Only a few hours before he shouted to me, “How goes it, Piercy,” and waved his hand. He was a good soldier, and he died a soldier’s death with his rifle to his shoulder, sniping from a sap. Two of them were waiting for him, and one got him in the cheek and the other in the neck.

The total period of his service with the Territories until his death is recorded in his service record as 6 years and 116 days7c, 7e.

On 23rd November 1915  the Colonel of his Regiment sent a letter7k to Joseph’s widow, Minnie Betts, enclosing his personal effects. In what can only be described as a callously-worded letter, he said the following and listed the effects:


Herewith personal effects of the late No. 704 Sergeant Joseph Betts, 1/4th Batt:South Lancashire Regt.

Please acknowledge receipt hereon and return to me.

K. Hodgkinson Colonel

Officer 1/c Terr: Force Records


Tobacco Pouch


Match Box Case




Note Book


Letters and Photographs

2 Writing Cases

Medal Ribbon

On 9th December 1915 a letter was sent to the Officer in charge of Records7n stating that Minnie had been awarded a pension of 22 shillings a week for herself and two children, with effect from 20th December. We wonder how she and the two children managed from 7th June (when he was killed and his pay will have stopped) until December (when his pension started)? It is to our country’s shame that many widows and children suffered great hardship when their husbands and fathers were killed and we suspect that the Betts family were among them.

Joseph died in the Ypres salient and, in common with so many of his comrades, has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.


Unfortunately, when we visited the Menin Gate we looked on Panel 37, on which the CWGC says he is commemorated, and could not find his name. We cannot, therefore, include a photograph of his memorial stone yet.