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Joseph Henry Bratt

Birth

Joseph Henry Bratt was born on April 1 1894 in Heaton, Staffordshire, which was in the parish of Rushton St. Lawrence, to Cyril (1874-1917) and Edith Emilia Bratt (née Goodwin) 1874-1950). Both Cyril and Edith were 19 years old when Joseph was born.

Early Life

The Bratt family lived at Bent Farm in Heaton, where Cyril was employed as a Wheelwright. Next door at Bent Head lived Joseph and Mary Ellen Bratt, Joseph’s grandparents. Joseph Senior was a farmer. Joseph had six brothers and sisters, Agnes Maud (1896-1976), Annie Mary (1901-1902), Edith Ellen (1903-1972), Cyril Raymond (1906-1972) and Gladys Annie (1907-1982).

By the time of the 1911 census the Bratt family address is recorded as Gun End, Heaton, near Macclesfield. Joseph was 17 years old and a school student, having attended Leek High School in Staffordshire.

Chester College

Joseph was admitted to Chester College in 1915. However, no records exist of Joseph beginning his teaching career, possibly as a result of enlisting in the Army as soon as the call came for men to join up.

Joseph enlisted into the Army reserve on December 10 1915 in Chester. His address was given as Pool End near Leek, Staffordshire. He was 21 years old, and a student at the time. On March 3, 1916 in Lichfield, he was appointed to the North Staffordshire Regiment - 5th Battalion, known as the Pioneers. He was posted to France on December 11 1916. At this time, the family moved to a farm at Pool End, about one mile from Leek.

On March 4 1916 Joseph was promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal, and on  July 7 1916 promoted to Acting Corporal 203024. In December 1916, the Battalion was posted to France. By the time of his death Joseph had moved to the 9th Battalion North Staff Regiment.

Lest We Forget

On  May 11 1918 the enemy began to shell Fonquevillers at 5pm, were the 9th North Staffordshire Regiment were assembled. At first it was not known that they were gas shells but around 2000 shells landed in the area – the attack lasting until midnight, some seven hours of shelling. It was reported in the war diaries at the time that “a great deal of difficulty was experienced in wearing the box respirators”. It was during this gas attack that Joseph was overcome by the gas and died four days later on  May 15 1918. Joseph was one of 59 killed by gas in that month.

Post Mortem

Joseph was awarded the British War Medal and Victory medal but, as was common at the time, these medals took a long time to be given to the next of kin. Indeed, Joseph’s mother wrote a very moving letter as she thought that his award must have been overlooked.

Joseph left the sum of £5 9s 9d (about £5.50) on his death which went to his mother as next of kin together with various possessions including letters, photographs, cards, and a book of poems amongst other items.

Joseph is buried at St. Sever Cemetery in Rouen, Northern France St. Sever Cemetery and St. Sever Cemetery Extension are located within a large communal cemetery situated on the eastern edge of the southern Rouen suburbs of Le Grand Quevilly and Le Petit Quevilly.

Obituary

Joseph is remembered on several other memorials besides the University of Chester Chapel plaque. These include the monument in Leek (the tallest war memorial in the country, paid for by Sir Arthur Nicholson a local mill owner, in memory of his son Lieutenant Basil Lee Nicholson and other local men who died in WWI), also at Leek High School, and the village churches at Rushton and Meerbrook . Joseph had a girlfriend called Rene; there was a small newspaper cutting of a memoriam from her along with one from his mother and family in the local newspaper.

Addendum

During research into the life of Joseph Henry Bratt it came to our volunteers’ attention that an auction of World War One memorabilia was being held which included various items attributed to Joseph. By a stroke of good fortune, this lot was purchased by someone who also had an interest in this field and after some further research by Alumna Sue Carmichael, contact was made by the University, and a meeting arranged to display the artefacts purchased.