Born: 28 April 1874
Died: 22 September 1918
Service number: 132394
Regiment/Service: 180th Tunnelling Coy, Royal Engineers
Family information: Son of Jon and Ann Wootton
Lance Corporal Wootton enlisted in Pontefract. The 180th Tunnelling Company
was raised on 22 August 1915 at Labuissiere, France and Captain W. E.
Buckingham was ordered to take command. Like all the ubiquitous tunnelling
companies, the 180th were always on the move to and from different parts of the
Western Front. Major Johnson took over command in June 1917.
In the Wakefield Express dated 24 November 1917
was the following article:
"An interesting little ceremony took place on Tuesday evening at
the Workingmens’ Club and Institute when a presentation was made to Corporal
Wootton, Royal Engineers as a mark of appreciation of his having received the
Military Medal for bravery.
The presentation was made from the funds of the local Soldiers and
Sailors Fund, and Mr. Herbert Hall, who presided, explained the objects of this
fund, which provides for similar occasions and also for the homecoming of every
Mr. R. J. Squire, in making the presentation, (a wallet of
treasury notes) paid high tribute to the recipient. Corporal Wootton, who
received a great ovation, in responding said he was at a loss to understand why
all this ceremony should be taken on his behalf because he believed there were
thousands of Tommies who had not only deserved the Military Cross but even the
Speeches were also made by Councillor Evans, Mr. J. Simpson and
Mr. Samuel Harper. The proceedings were pleasantly interspersed with songs by
Corporal Wootton and Messrs. Oliver Hale, John Russell, Albert Hill, Wilson
Gaskell and Mrs. Vincent Wood, the accompanist being Councillor A.
One small point. My grandfather, Joseph Isaiah Wootton, makes reference to
the Military Cross in his speech. He also wrote in a tiny diary that I have,
that he had received the Military Cross. He was mistaken in as much as this
award was only inaugurated in mid 1916 as a new medal for bravery but as with
most medals there was a medal for other ranks and different one for officers. So
other ranks got a Military Medal and officers got a Military Cross, hence
Corporal Wootton’s error. Apparently officers had a different type of bravery
than other ranks.
By September 1918, with the help of the Americans and under the overall
command of the French General Foch, the Germans were well and truly beaten,
although they never gave up until the cease fire was agreed on November 11th.
The allied forces were still being killed right to the end.
Early in September 1918 the 180th were in the Somme area, Albert and Combles
and Trones Wood, where their main task now was clearing traps left behind by the
retreating Germans. On the 8th they moved to Villers-Faucon where Corporal
Wootton was to be buried. At this time the company received a letter from
Commander in Chief, Haig:
“He conveys his high appreciation of the excellent work done by Major G. F.
Johnson M.C., the officers, N.C.O.s and men of the 180th in clearing traps in
the neighbourhood of Albert. The class of work involved called for the highest
form of courage from those engaged on it.”
In the Company War diary of the latter part of September is a record
of wounded men, bravery awards and continual movements of the company. They were
repairing roads, craters and removing booby traps and land mines.
On the 22 September Corporal Wootton is reported killed in action, aged 44
years. A wallet with a jagged hole, belonging to Joseph Wootton, points to him
being killed by shrapnel either from a shell or from a booby trap bomb. We shall
never know. He is buried in Villers-Faucon Cemetery, France. Grave II. E. 2.
Joseph Isaiah Wootton was born in Bilston, Staffs and lived in Streethouse.
He was the husband of Grace Wootton, Streethouse and brother of John William
Story submitted by Tony Lumb.