Lance Cpl. R. Joyce

FIRST NAMES: Ralph

UNIT: 2nd Yorkshire Regiment

NUMBER: 9724

STATUS: Killed in Action

DATE OF DEATH: 30th October 1914

CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Belgium

AGE: 20


Lance Corporal Joyce was born in Seaton, near Sunderland, and enlisted in Richmond though his home address at the time was in Northallerton. His parents were called William and Malinda Joyce and they lived at 8 Springwell Road, Northallerton.

He was in the Army before the outbreak of War and his official rank is given as Lance Corporal, though he appears as a Corporal on the Memorial.

He was killed, according to the official records, aged 20, at the First Battle of Ypres on 30th October 1914. The previous day his Battalion had been left occupying a salient formed after the German attacks had broken through the British line on their left and the Regiment to their right had retired. They held onto their position until the following day when they were subjected to a heavy artilliery barrage and extremely accurate sniper fire. They received orders to withdraw from this position at 3.30 pm. on the 30th, but the message had been delayed for two hours because it was so difficult for runners to reach their position. Nevertheless, they were almost completely surrounded and so they were forced to withdraw immediately, even though it was broad daylight. They carried out a successful withdrawal, losing only 11 men in the process, but they had suffered heavy casualties in fighting to maintain their position before they were ordered to withdraw.

On December 5th 1914 an interview with Ralph Joyce's brother, who was also serving as a sergeant in "B" Company of the 2nd Yorkshires, was published in the Darlington & Stockton Times. Sgt. Joyce was wounded in the groin, by a shell splinter, a few days after his brother had been killed and though he continued to fight for several days afterwards, even taking part in a bayonet charge against the elite Prussian Guard, he was forced to report sick when his Company was relieved and he was sent back to England for treatment. Part of the published interview read as follows:

" On October 30th the Green Howards received orders to go to support the 22nd Brigade. That day, Major Walker, commanding 'C' Company, was killed, this being the Company in which Sgt. Joyce's brother was serving.

The Green Howards took up their position in the rear of the 22nd Brigade and dug trenches. On October 31st they were strongly attacked by the enemy and the Scottish Regiment, having fallen short of ammunition , was forced to retire. The Green Howards came to their support, and drove the enemy back, retaking the trenches. Sergt. Joyce's brother was killed by a shell in this fight. The sergeant describes this fight as a veritable Hell, the great guns filling the air with bursting shell, bullets whizzing past from the maxims etc."

As often happens at times of sustained and confused fighting, the exact date of death in this account is at odds with the official date and it is not possible to be certain which of them is correct.