MASON, Joseph

15662, Corporal, Joseph MASON
Aged 34

11th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action
on Saturday 1st July 1916

Joseph Mason was born in Burwell on 19th August 1881 (Newmarket Q3-1881 3B:511), baptised in Burwell on 23rd July 1884, son of Thomas and Anne Elizabeth MASON (née DAVEY).

1891 census...Aged 9, he was at Rose Cottage, Burwell with his father Thomas MASON [51] farmer/carter; his mother Elizabeth [50]; sister Florence [19] and brother Thomas [15]. All were born in Burwell

1901 census...Aged 19, a solicitor's clerk, he was at The Rom? [Rose Cottage?], High Street, Burwell with his parents, sister Florence and brother Thomas (County Court clerk).

After leaving school Joe started work as a clerk at Button and Aylmer (solicitors) in Newmarket before moving on to a clerk's position at Rutland Livery Stables.
On 1st April 1905 he married Mabel Emily Gaston MORSLEY in Burwell.

1911 census...Aged 29, a livery stables clerk, he was at 1 Edith Villas, Rous Road, Newmarket, with his wife Mabel Emily Gaston [31] born Harwich and their children, Thomas Barry [5], Robert James [3] and Elizabeth Rosaline [under 10 months]. All the children were born in Newmarket. They went on to have two more sons, Joseph [1912] and Arthur George [1915], born in Newmarket.

photo; Margaret Cole

Joseph enlisted in Newmarket at his second attempt, though why he was turned down at first is unclear. From his number he appears to have enlisted nOctober 1914..
The worst day in British military history, 60,000 casualties, around 20,000 of them dead.
The 11th Suffolks were part of 34th Division, as yet untried in battle, in the front of the attack opposite La Boiselle. At 7.28 a mine containing 60,000 lbs of ammonal was blown, creating a crater (Lochnagar crater) 55 feet deep and 220 feet across. 2 minutes later the attack began, the 11 Suffolks following the 10th Lincolns advancing on a line through the centre of Bailiff Wood. The Germans however were in great strength in La Boiselle and as the Suffolks advanced they immediately came under heavy machine gun fire. The lines of men were quickly reduced to groups of 3 and four and by 8 am the battle was decided. Hundreds lay wounded, a pitiful few had managed to reach the German wire. Occasionally a man rose and tried to get forward, only to fall again. Even those few who did reach the parapet were quickly despatched by flame throwers.

Of all the battalions in the battle of Albert, the 11th Suffolks fared worst, with very nearly 700 casualties (a battalion is nominally just over 1,000 men).

The 11th Suffolk suffered 188 killed on the 1st July, 147 of them have no known grave.

1 July 1916..11th Suffolks war diary, which fails to tell the real horror of the day.
Map 1.5000 sheet 57d.X.25.d Becourt Wood 1st July
5:am - Bn commenced to leave BECOURT WOOD and proceeded to jumping off places in DUNDEE AVENUE and NEW CUT "B" and in MONIKIE STREET.
7 am - Bn all in position with Battn HQ in a dugout near junction of DUNDEE AVENUE with ARBROATH STREET and NEW CUT "B". The Bn was considerably delayed in getting into position owing to the right of the 102nd Brigade extending too far to the right.
7:28 am - The mine opposite left of 101st Brigade was exploded [La Boiselle- Lochnagar]
7:30 - The infantry assault was launched. The Bn followed the 10th Lincolns from our assembly trenches down into SAUSAGE VALLEY and across to the German lines. Owing to the failure of the 102nd Brigade on the left to capture LA BOISELLE, our advance from the moment it left our assembly trenches was subjected to a very heavy fire from machine guns from LA BOISELLE. In spite of the fact that wave after wave were mown down by machine gun fire, all pushed on without hesitation, though very few reached the German lines.
The diary then moves on to the 2nd July without any further details.

Four Burwell men, all in the 11th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment died on the infamous 1st day of the Somme, Ivan Cook, Joseph Mason, Harry Norton and Arthur Warren.

Joseph Mason is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, pier and face 1C/2A

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details