Joseph Belfield, Private 68559, Royal Army Medical Corps
Reported killed 20th June 1916 in France, aged 32
Joseph Belfield was born in Macclesfield in 1893, the son of Martha and Joseph Belfield, a cotton spinner of 24 Daybrook Street. In 1901, eight-year-old Joseph was living at the same address with his parents and siblings William (19), Emma (17), Lizzie (14), Bertha (10), John (6), Ada (4) and Tom (2).
By the time of the 1911 census, Joseph’s mother had died, the family included two more boys: William Ewart (9) and Fred (7), and Joseph was employed as a silk steward.
The family later moved to Daybrook Street.
Joseph enlisted with the local Cheshire Regiment but was discharged; he then applied to and was accepted by the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The news of Joseph’s death was printed in the Macclesfield Times on 30 June 1916:
AMBULANCE RISKS – KILLED INSTANTLY BY A SHELL
News has been received that Private Joseph Belfield, 95th Field Ambulance, RAMC, son of the late Mr J Belfield, of Daybrook Street, Macclesfield, has been killed in action in France. The sad intelligence was contained in a letter written by Private J Barlow, a comrade of the deceased soldier. Writing on June 20th, Private Barlow states:- “I am sorry to say that your brother Joe has been killed in action by shell fire. We were going to the trenches when a shell exploded, killing Joe outright. I myself was wounded in the left arm. Your brother was my best pal, and we had always been together. I was taken to hospital, but I don’t know where Joe was taken.”
Private Belfield was 22 [sic] years of age and lived with his sisters in Daybrook Street. He was a native of Macclesfield and received his education at Daybrook Street School. The deceased enlisted in the Territorials shortly after the commencement of the war but was subsequently discharged. Eager to play his part, however, he joined the RAMC, and after about six months training was drafted to France. Private Belfield was formerly employed at the Lower Heyes Mill and was held in high esteem by his workmates. He was a well-known footballer and played for the Fence School at the Lower Heyes in the knock-out competitions.
The deceased soldier has four brothers who have responded to the call of King and Country, namely: Private John (who is in training with the 1/7th Cheshires at Oswestry); Private Wilfred, 1/7th Cheshires; Private Tom, 2/7th Cheshire Regt (now discharged); and Private J Belfield, who is serving with the motor cycle corps, machine-gun section. Much sympathy is felt with the relatives of the deceased soldier in their bereavement.
The following week, Joseph himself wrote to advise his sister that his friend was mistaken and he was, in fact, very much alive!
PRIVATE BELFIELD SAFE. BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN KILLED BUT NOW RECOVERING
We are pleased to state that Private Belfield, 95th Field Ambulance, RAMC, son of the late Mr J Belfield, Daybrook Street, Macclesfield, who was unofficially reported killed in action in France, is still in the land of the living. The welcome news of his safety is contained in letters written by Private Belfield himself. He had a narrow escape from death and is now at the base hospital in France.
In a communication to his sister, Miss Hannah Belfield, Daybrook Street, Macclesfield, dated June 26th (four days after the date on which he was alleged to have been killed), Private Belfield says: “You have had a letter from my pal who thought I had been killed, but I am pleased to say that I am alive although I had a very narrow escape from death. We were going up the line when we heard a shell coming over us, but we did not know in which direction it was coming. We had no time for anything, and I at once made a dart for a trench. I fell into the trench and did not know anything further until I found myself in hospital. I was unconscious for two days, and was very lucky to escape. My other mates were wounded by shrapnel. I am feeling a lot better, and I thank God I came out alright. My mate thought I was killed, and I am sorry he got hit.”
Writing on the same date to his friend, Mr J Booth, Lower Heyes Mill, Private Belfield states: “I have had a narrow escape from being killed by shell fire. My pal was wounded and I came off very lucky. We were going up the line when they started to shell us. As we were going along I heard a shell coming over us, and I dropped in a trench just in time. My pals all thought I was killed. I think I shall pull through all right, though I am not feeling up to the mark at present. Remember me to all my friends.”
Brother of John Belfield, who served as Private 290390 with the 1/7th Cheshires and was killed in action in 1918; Wilfred Belfield, who served with the 1/7th Cheshires and later as Sgt 286420 with the 468th Field Coy, Royal Engineers; Tom Belfield, who enlisted with the 2/7th Cheshire Regt but was discharged, and later served as Private 109170 with the 15th Sherwood Foresters; and James Belfield, who served with the motor cycle corps, machine-gun section and later as Cpl 203777 with the 537th Labour Corps.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
WWI Britain Absent Voters’ Lists (Find My Past)
Macclesfield Times: 30 June 1916, 1 July 1916