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164: Joel Halliwell (medals)

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posted on 2024-01-12, 12:10 authored by Lest We Forget Project Team

Joel Halliwell is my Great Great Uncle. His sister Eliza was my great great grandmother. His brother, Thomas Halliwell, died in the Somme in 1916.

Joel Halliwell's medals have remained in my family's possession for the last 100 years but not on public display. His VC dress medal was stolen from his pub at the New Inn Middleton in the 1920s.

On the 100th Anniversary of his heroism in rescuing 9 of his colleagues in No-Man's Land on a captured German horse we have loaned the medal to the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum in Bury, Lancashire. I, Abbey Smith, wanted to share my Great Uncle's story with you.

Childhood
- He was a keen footballer as a schoolboy.

Education and Academic and Professional Honours
- Parkfield Church of England School, Middleton, Oldham, Lancashire

Civilian Employment and Appointments
- He worked at the Middleton Cotton Mill as a general labourer in 1901, eventually becoming Foreman of the Rain and Forest Mill, Oldham.
- He ran The New Inn public house, Long Street, Middleton, between 1930-40 but reportedly tired of people asking him to recount his exploits.
- Appointed Foreman for the Middleton Highways Department.
- He finally worked for a firm of dyers up until 1957.

Service History
- Enlisted as a Private on 13 November 1914 at Bury, Lancashire. He was described as 5' 5" tall and weighing 134 lbs.
- Joined the 11th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers on 17 November 1914.
- Fined four days pay for being absent for 13 hours on 16 January 1915.
- Underwent three days detention for overstaying a pass by almost one day on 20 August 1915.
- Proceeded on operational service with the Battalion to France on 25 September 1915.
- Qualified for Proficiency Pay at Class 2 @ 3d per day on 13 November 1916.
- Unpaid Lance Corporal on 13 January 1917.
- Promoted Lance Corporal on 16 June 1917.
- Granted leave in England from 25 July – 7 August 1917.

In early May 1918, the British needed to rest exhausted divisions following the German spring offensives and the Allies needed to create a General Reserve to meet the next onslaught. To achieve this, both French divisions, from the quiet Chemin des Dames sector, were relieved by five exhausted British divisions (IX Corps). The 21st, 8th and 50th Divisions took over the lightly held area, each holding frontages of 8-10,000 yards. 25th Division was in reserve. A massive German barrage opened early on 27 May along a 24 miles front. The attack began at 0340 hrs, sweeping the forward defences away and pressing on to the Aisne. The defence of the second position was to have been conducted by 25th Division, but its brigades were sent to reinforce the forward divisions instead. As a result the second position was breached and a gap opened between the French and British. Both pulled back to form defensive flanks and the gap widened to 12 miles by nightfall.

74th Brigade (25th Division) was closest to the widening gap. The 11th Lancashire Fusiliers at Muscourt was ordered to take up the front south of the Aisne. The Germans were held until they advanced through the French to the west. At 1330 hrs they crossed the bridge at Maizy and rushed towards Muscourt. 11th Lancashire Fusiliers stopped them along the road leading south from Concevreux, until they entered Muscourt and threatened the flank. The Battalion withdrew along the ridge near Meurival, but was shelled out of this location and forced back to another position 500 yards south of the ridge.

During this tense period Lance Corporal Halliwell rescued wounded men as the Battalion fell back. He galloped forward on a horse captured from the enemy and, despite heavy machine-gun and shell fire, brought back singly and unaided an officer and nine soldiers who were severely wounded. He ensured they were evacuated then made three attempts to bring in an eleventh man, but was forced to give up when the Germans advanced again.

The 11th Lancashire Fusiliers repulsed three attacks before pulling back again. That night it moved to the high ground northwest of Romain with the rest of the Brigade. By then it numbered just nine officers and 100 men. Next day it was all but destroyed covering the withdrawal of the Brigade over the Vesle.

For his gallantry he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

- Posted to the Base on 12 July 1918.
- Attached to Headquarters 151st Brigade on 4 August 1918.
- Posted to 16th Battalion on 23 December 1918.
- Posted to 10th Battalion on 18 January 1919 and arrived two days later.
- Demobilized on 30 January 1919, although his service record also states that he left France on 2 March 1919.

He tried to re-join the Army for the Second World War, but was rejected through poor eyesight and the wound to his left leg received during the Great War.

Orders, Decorations and Medals
- Victoria Cross
- 1914-15 Star
- British War Medal 1914-20
- Victory Medal 1914-19
- King George VI Coronation Medal 1937
- Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953

The award of the Victoria Cross for action at Aisne II (Chemin des Dames), near Muscourt, France, on 27 May 1918, was published on p.8724 of London Gazette No. 30811, dated 25 July 1918.

The citation reads:

"No. 9860 L./Cpl. Joel Halliwell, Lanc. Fus. (Middleton).

For most conspicuous bravery and determination displayed during the withdrawal of the remnants of the Battalion when closely engaged with the enemy. L./Cpl. Halliwell, having captured a stray enemy horse, rode out under heavy rifle fire and rescued a wounded man from "No Man's Land." He repeatedly this performance several times, and succeeded in rescuing one officer and nine other ranks. He made another effort to reach a wounded man, but was driven back by the very close advance of the enemy. His conduct was magnificent throughout, and was a splendid and inspiring example to all who saw him."

Invested with the VC by HM King George V at Buckingham Palace on 11 September 1918.

Investitures for the VC were also made on that day for Roland R.L. Bourke, Victor A.C. Crutchley, Phillip Davey and Geoffrey H. Drummond.

Location
- The Fusiliers' Museum Lancashire, Moss Street, Bury, Lancashire on loan.
Movement History
- His VC was bequeathed to his eldest granddaughter and was known to be privately owned in April 2014.
- His miniature VC was stolen from the bar at his public house prior to 1939. Halliwell gave up running the public house shortly afterwards.

Reverse Engraving
9860 L/CPL J. HALLIWELL
11TH BN. LANC.FUS.
27 MAY 1918

History

Name of contributor(s)

Abbey Smith

Subject of the story/individual the object(s) relate to

Joel Halliwell VC

Date(s) the event(s) in the story took place

27/05/1918

Location(s) where the event(s) in the story took place

Muscourt, France

Object(s)

Medals

Community Collection Day

King's High School, Warwick (08/06/18)

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