Joseph Steele, 200738 Kings Own Royal (Lancaster) Regiment was killed in action, 28th April, 1918 at Salome, La Bussee front, France, during the First World War whilst a prisoner of war in German hands and his name is commemorated on a plaque in Dud Corner cemetry (see http://www.cwgc.org/search/certificate.aspx?casualty=1769723). He was reported as missing 9th April, 1918. When he enlisted at Ulverston he gave a false age as he was only 16 years old at the time. Joseph Steele, 200738, joined the 1/4 Battalion of the Kings Own Royal Lancashire Regiment, as a 16 year old. The Regiment entered the Theatre of war on 24th December 1915 (although he had signed up at the start of the war in 1914 but probably did not get sent to France when the rest of his Battalion went due to him being only aged 16), transferred to the 55th (West Lancashire) Division under the command of Major General Sir Hugh Jeudwine in January 1916. Joseph was reported missing 9th April 1918, possibly captured at Windy Corner, Givenchy-les-le-Bassee. He was held captive by the Germans and, I understand, he and the others taken prisoner were put on battlefield clearance, burial and carrying duties by their German captors. Joseph was killed on the 28th April, 1918 at Salomé with a few other Allied soldiers when the Allies started shelling the village. The family story goes that when the shelling started the Germans herded the Allied soldiers in to the L'Eglise church on Rue Pasteur and then they left and took shelter. After the Germans had gone to take shelter the Allied soldiers took the chance to escape but Joseph Steele realized he had left his helmet inside the church and went back inside for it just as a shell made a direct hit on the church killing Joseph. A few other Allied soldiers were also killed due to Allied shelling of the village whilst others escaped and made it back to the Allied lines. The British Parliamentary Paper, [Cd. 9106] 1918, Misc. No. 19 (London), report on the ‘Treatment by the Germans of Prisoners of War Taken during the Spring Offensives of 1918’ [In Continuation of Misc. No. 7 (1918)]. It contains the following evidence on p.6 (At Salomé) “We were about 600 yards from the German front line, and were shelled regularly at night, our hut often being hit. Fourteen British of the 55th Division were killed and eleven wounded from shell fire…All the time we were working we had no gas masks, as the Germans had taken them from us when captured; they themselves, however, had theirs all the time.” I understand that at Salomé the prisoners of war were initially kept in a ‘cage’ which held about 2300 prisoners; some 1500 British. Later an old church was used (maybe this is the one that Joseph went back in to collect his helmet and was shelled by the allies) and also a hut for 250. These, I am told were situated some 600 yards behind the German lines in Salomé.

Ivor Holden