Joseph William Corcoran


Sapper 239493, Royal Engineers (Railway Operating Division)

Died 27th May 1918 aged 21

Buried Mendingham Military Cemetery, Belgium

Son of Edward and Ada Corcoran

Lived 4, Walkley Terrace, Heckmondwike

Joseph William, known as William, was born in Heckmondwike in 1898. His father Edward was born in Hunslet to Irish immigrants and his mother Ada, nee Crowther, was born in Mirfield. William was their only son, he had three sisters. Prior to enlisting in the army he had worked at CWS Bootworks - his father and grandfather were both boot and shoe makers. He eventually went to work on the London and North Western Railway and was a Junior Porter at Ravensthorpe Station before moving to Heckmondwike to be a Signaller. He attended Battye Street and High Street schools and the United Methodist Sunday School. He had been a Boy Scout and was a member of Heckmondwike Working Men's Club.

He joined the Royal Engineers in February 1917, was posted to France in March 1918 and was attached to the Railway Operating Division. The ROD, as they were known, were formed in 1915 and were comprised mainly of railway employees, they were exclusively concerned with operating full size standard gauge trains in various theatres of war, they managed traffic, provided crews and repaired rolling stock. Very few records have survived about the activities of this division.

His mother received notification of his death in a letter sent to her my Captain G. Smith, it read "Dear Mrs. Corcoran, It is with deep regret I have to inform you that your son was killed last night by enemy shellfire whilst on duty. A measure of comfort is perhaps to be found in the fact that death was instantaneous. Arrangements are being made for his burial in a military cemetery and details thereof will reach you later. I have always found Sapper Corcoran a particularly good fellow and well behaved, dependable and devoted to duty and am awfully sorry to lose his services."

She received a second letter on 29th May that said "Dear Mrs. Corcoran, I am forwarding to you 10 shillings; the equivalent amount was found in your son's pay book and I have exchanged it into English money for you. I am sorry to inform you that none of your boy's personal effects could be found. It may be of little consolation to you to know that he died painlessly and also that he was buried at 3:30 p.m. on the 28th inst; with full military honours in Mendingham Military Cemetery near Proven, Belgium. I, along with 50 N.C.O.'s and men attended the funeral. C. Tennison Lieut; R.E."{PL/RC-026}

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