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Joseph Reynolds

Private Joseph Reynolds, 3409, 2nd/4th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Private Joseph Reynolds died on December 20th, 1915 serving in WWI. Joseph’s father, Anthony Reynolds, died on May 7th, 1901 while serving in the Second Boer War and Joseph’s nephew, also named Joseph Reynolds, died on March 5th, 1943, serving in WWII. This is the story of three generations of the Reynolds family who lost their lives serving their country in conflicts.

Joseph Reynolds

Ossett Observer report of the death of Joseph Reynolds shortly after his death in December 1915

The story begins with Anthony Reynolds (1864-1901) who was the father of Joseph (1892-1915) and the grandfather of Joseph (1920-1943).

Private Anthony Reynolds, Loyal North Lancs Regiment, Manchester Regiment and Cheshire Regiment

Anthony Reynolds was born in late 1864 in Stockport, Cheshire, the son of cotton spinner John Reynolds and his wife Ann McDonald who married in November 1852. Anthony enlisted for 6 years in the Militia on the 3rd September 1886. A labourer born in Stockport, he gave his address as 14 Plantation Street, Accrington and claimed to be 21 years and 10 months of age. He was appointed to the 3rd Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with service number 1108. Anthony was 5’ 5 ½ tall with a ruddy complexion, grey eyes and auburn hair. He had a tattoo on his right forearm. His Militia record makes no reference to a discharge from service.

Ten months later, on the 10th July 1887, Anthony Reynolds, claiming to be aged 20 years and a labourer, attested at Ashton Under Lyne and was appointed to the Manchester Regiment with service number 1967. His vital statistics and description were the same as those included in his earlier Militia attestation, except to the extent that his weight was given as 126lbs, and that he now had tattoos on both arms.

He was posted to the 1st Manchester Regiment at Aldershot on the 22nd November 1887 and to Tipperary, Ireland on the 23rd June 1888, remaining there until the 8th November 1888. There is no record of his service after that date despite his attestation having committed him to 12 years service, comprising 7 years in the Army, followed by 5 years with the Army reserve.

During his service, Anthony was often in poor health and he was "discharged by purchase" at Tipperary in early 1888 having served 1 year and 125 days of his 12 year contract. The cost of buying out of his service was £18 (£1,650 in 2019 prices). The forwarding address for Anthony was c/o Mr. John Reynolds, 3, Brook Street, Crawshawbooth, Rawtenstall, Lancashire. His next of kin were his parents John and Ann Reynolds of 15, Primrose Terrace, Rawtenstall.

By 1891, Anthony had married Annie Langtry Jones (in spring 1890, near Stockport) and the couple were living at 2, Brook Street, Crawshawbooth. He was working as a labourer in a cotton mill. By 1901, Annie was living at 51, Park Street, Ashton Under Lyne, with her five children: John James (born 1891 at Crawshawbooth); Joseph (born 1892 Middleton, Oldham); Sarah A (born 1895 at Crawshawbooth); Alfred (born 1896 at Ashton U Lyne) and Annie (born 1900 at Ashton under Lyne). Anthony Reynolds was not recorded in the 1901 Census. He was elsewhere.

In the late 1890s, Private 2588, Anthony Reynolds enlisted for the third time when he was appointed to The Cheshire Regiment, which sailed for South Africa in early January 1900. He died of enteric fever, typhoid, at Springfontein, Pretoria on May 7th 1901 and was posthumously awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal for his sacrifice in the Second Boer War.

Cheshire REgiment Boer War

Above: Cheshire Regiment Inspection at Johannesburg, Boer War, South Africa 1900.

A British concentration camp was established at Springfontein, Pretoria, South Africa in early 1901, comprising 45 tented camps for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. Conditions were terrible for the health of the internees, mainly due to neglect, poor hygiene, and bad sanitation. The majority of the interns were 'bywoners', or poor Boer farm labourers. Many arrivals had little clothing, were barefoot and impoverished. The mortality rate was extremely high within the blacks’ concentration camp and Springfontein struggled to secure a steady supply of water. This was due to the British military base camps that were in constant need of water, and who monopolised the dams initially meant for the Springfontein Concentration Camp. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children, over 26,000 of whom died there together with 14,000 Black Africans.

Welfare campaigner Emily Hobhouse brought to the attention of the British public the appalling conditions inside the camps and the British government set up the Fawcett Commission to investigate her claims, under Millicent Fawcett, which corroborated her account, and resulted in improved conditions.

Anthony Reynolds is remembered at The Boer War Memorial at Chester Cathedral and on The Plaque of the 4th Cheshire Regiment at St. Michael And All Angels Church, Market Place, Macclesfield.

Anthony Reynolds, born in 1864 at Stockport, Cheshire did not live to see the death of his second son Joseph who died on December 20th 1915 in WWI or his grandson, Joseph on March 5th 1943 in WWII.

Private Joseph Reynolds, 3409, 2nd/4th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Joseph Reynolds was born in Middleton, Oldham, Lancashire in late 1892, the second son of Stockport born Anthony Reynolds and Annie Langtry Jones who married in Stockport, Cheshire in spring 1890.

In 1901 Joseph, aged 8 years, was living at 51 Park Street Ashton Under Lyne with his mother, Annie, and his four siblings, comprising his elder brother, John James aged 9 years, Sarah A, aged 5 years, Alfred, aged 4 years and Annie aged 1 year. As we have seen above, their father Anthony Reynolds, was at this time in South Africa serving in the Second Boer War.

With one exception, the eldest child, John James Reynolds, born 28th January 1891, it has not been possible to locate the family after 1901. On the 4th March 1911, at Gawthorpe St. Mary’s Church, John James, a coal hewer, of Batley Carr married Lydia Lumb of High Street Gawthorpe. Later that year the couple were living with Lydia’s parents, Alfred and Jane Lumb, at 4, High Street, Gawthorpe. John James and Lydia were to have nine children born between summer 1911 and spring 1930. One of those children, their third child, was to be named Joseph Reynolds (1920-1943) after his uncle.

Tellingly, none of those children were born between 1914 and 1918, since John James and his younger brother, Joseph went to war. Indeed John James, of High Street, Gawthorpe, was one of the earliest Ossett recruits, having enlisted before Christmas 1914. It seems likely that he first joined the 7th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I.), which was formed at Pontefract on the12th September 1914. The 7th KOYLI landed at Boulogne on 24th July 1915. In due course John James was transferred to 1st/4th Battalion, K.O.Y.L.I. Private 39021, John James Reynolds was fortunate. He survived the war and was awarded the British Victory and, perhaps, the 1914-15 medals for his service overseas in a theatre of war.

His brother, Joseph Reynolds, Private 3409, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was not to be so fortunate and he died of his wounds on the 20th December 1915. Joseph also enlisted soon after the declaration of war on 4th August 1914. He enlisted at Batley and joined the Territorial 1/4 KOYLI who landed at Boulogne on the 12th April 1915. Joseph joined them there on 9th July 1915.

The 1st/4th Battalion of K.O.Y.L.I was formed in August 1914 at Wakefield and was part of the 3rd West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. They moved on mobilisation to Doncaster and then in November 1914 to Gainsborough. The battalion moved again to York in February 1915 for training and on the 12th April 1915, they landed at Boulogne. On the 15th May 1915 the formation became 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division. Barely eight months later, on 20th December 1915, Private Joseph Reynolds died of wounds sustained during a German attack on the 19th December 1915.

On January 1st 1916 the Ossett Observer ran an account of this poisonous gas attack which was to cause the deaths of five local men including Joseph Reynolds.


On the 19th of December (Sunday) the Germans made a poisonous gas attack on British positions north of Ypres, followed by an infantry attack, which was quickly repulsed. The official communication stated "Our protective measures acted satisfactorily."

The first 4th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry were in this engagement and we regret to say that, despite the statement as to the efficiency of the protective measures, the casualties were heavy. So far as we have been able to ascertain, the local casualties were as follows:

Private Albert Duncan, 29 Woodbine Street, Ossett
Private J. W. Reynolds 4 High Street, Gawthorpe
Private Harry A. C. Woodward, Heathfield Road, Dewsbury Road, Ossett
Private Horace Heywood, George Street, Horbury
Private Clifford Oakes White, High Street, Horbury “

A further twelve Ossett men suffered from gas poisoning during the enemy attack."

Chemical Warfare 1915

Chemical Warfare. British troops with a Vickers Gun December 1915

Private Joseph Reynolds was gassed in the first German phosgene attack on December 19th 1915, near Wieltje on the Ypres battlefield. It was the first time that phosgene was used against British troops (6th and 49th Divisions). More than 1000 soldiers were affected, and about 120 men subsequently died shortly afterwards. There was some shelling, but apart from sending out infantry and air patrols to gauge the effectiveness of the gas cloud, the Germans made no attempt to advance.

Joseph was posthumously awarded the British and the Victory Medal for his service overseas in a theatre of war. He was also awarded the 1914-15 Star for his service overseas on or before the 31st December 1915.

He is buried at Ferme-Olivier Cemetery, West-Vlannderen, Belgium at Plot 2. Row H. Grave 1. The Cemetery is located 7 km. north west of Ypres. The cemetery was used continuously between 9th June 1915 and 5th August 1917, with the 62nd, 16th, 9th, 11th, 129th and 130th Field Ambulances successively having dressing stations close by. Throughout this period, the village was just within range of the German artillery and a two collective graves in Plot 2, Row E, contain the remains of 41 men of the 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment killed on parade on 29 December 1915 by a single shell fired from a naval gun in Houthulst Forest.

By the end of WWI Joseph Reynolds had lost his life and John James Reynolds had lost his brother. In honour of that brother, John James and his wife Lydia named their third child and first son, Joseph.

Born in Ossett in spring 1920 young Joseph lost his life on 5th March 1943. He is buried in an unmarked grave on Balalae Island, part of the Solomon Island Group in the Pacific. He is also remembered on Column 28 of the Singapore Memorial. You can read more about Joseph Reynolds by clicking on the link included with his name.

In a period of 42 years, men from three generations of the Reynolds family, a father, a son and a grandson, were lost in war. Only one member of this Reynolds family lived to know each of these three brave men. His name was John James Reynolds, who himself served in WWI and survived. In 1939 he was a widower living at 77, Swithenbank Street, Gawthorpe working as a labourer at a destructor. He had with him in his household six more people, five of whom had their names redacted. Five of these could be some of his nine children (Jane, Annie, Joseph, Alfred, Walter, Leslie, Betty and twins Fred and Jack) born between 1913 and 1930. The sixth name in the 1939 Reynolds household was Fred Reynolds, born in 1930, a twin). By 1961 John James Reynolds was living at 5 Jubbs’ Yard, Ossett and this was his address when he died in October 1962, aged 71 years. He is buried at Ossett Holy Trinity Church.


1. Chester Cathedral, South Africa (Boer) War Memorial

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission