5138 BSM. J. JOYCE. R.F.A.
John Joyce was born in the third quarter of 1876 in Llanbeblig, Caernarfon, North Wales. His father was Thomas Joyce (b. 1830 in Galway, Ireland). According to the 1871 Census, Thomas had been a sergeant in the Royal Garrison Rifles and at that time (he was 41) he was a Chelsea Pensioner. He was still in service in 1864, as that year he married Priscilla Aiano at Linenhall Barracks in Dublin. Linenhall Barracks was used as a temporary barracks by the British Army until about 1870. It was destroyed in the Easter Uprising in 1916. Priscilla Aiano was born in Canterbury, Kent, in 1837, but she later moved to Dover. It’s not clear what the connection was with north Wales, but Thomas and Priscilla moved there after they married and lived the rest of their lives there. They had five children: Walter (b. 1866), Priscilla (b. 1867), Thomas (b. 1870), then John, and finally William (b. 1879). Priscilla (snr) died in 1890 and two years later Thomas married again. His second wife was Elizabeth Williams (b. 1851 in Anglesey). Thomas died in 1911.
John was a professional soldier like his father but the records are almost non-existent. He is living with his parents (aged five) in Caernarfon in 1881 but he doesn’t appear again in the Census until 1911, by which time he has married and had moved to Higher Walton. His wife was Elizabeth Jane Hughes (b. 1881 in Llanbeblig). They were married in Caernarfon in 1907 so presumably moved after that. In 1911, John gives his occupation as Sergeant. The couple have no children and live at 2 Darwen Bank Cottage, Higher Walton. Some time later, they moved to 45 St Mary’s Road, Bamber Bridge.
According to CWGC, John was Battery Sergeant Major in “A” Battery, 276 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. This is the West Lancashire Brigade, which came under orders of 55th (West Lancashire) Division. They landed in France on 20 September 1915 and the divisional artillery was briefly attached to the 2nd Canadian Division. They rejoined the infantry of 55th Division in early 1916 and were engaged in trench warfare near Arras. They were relieved by 11th (Northern) Division in July and moved south. On 25 July they took their place in the line opposite the village of Guillemont. During August, the divisional artillery was engaged in shelling the village and the German defences. Unfortunately, the pages of the War Diary relating to 1-6 September 1916 appear to be missing, so no further information is available as to the precise events leading to John’s death. He was killed on 1 September 1916, aged 40.
John is buried at Flatiron Copse Cemetery, near Mametz. The cemetery was opened after Mametz Wood was taken on 14 July 1916 and a dressing station was attached nearby. It remained in use until April 1917. After the Armistice, more than a thousand graves of men who died in the area (Guillemont, Contalmaison, Montauban and Bazentin) between July and September 1916 were brought together into the single cemetery.
Rank: Battery Serjeant Major
Service Number: 5138
Date of Death: 01/09/1916
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery. "A" Bty. 276th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: IX. C. 1.
Cemetery: FLATIRON COPSE CEMETERY, MAMETZ