Chance, Joseph Henry

Hull Pals Memorial Post. PRIVATE JOSEPH HENRY CHANCE 11/490. Born in April 1895, Joseph was the eldest of ten children to William (1872-1945) and Alice Chance, of 7 Gladstone Avenue, Beecroft Street, Hull (War Pension address). A Labourer by trade he queued outside Hull City Hall on Tuesday 8th September 1914 to join the new Pals Battalion, Hull’s second, which had begun filling its ranks the day before. Joseph survived all the major campaigns without so much as a scratch; he got through Egypt, the Somme, Oppy Wood, Vimy Ridge unscathed, but eventually ran out of luck on 27th March 1918 during the German Spring Offensive. He had been home to Hull on leave from 28th February to 13th March, so his family will have seen him one last time. I wonder if that made the telegram feel surreal, somehow unbelievable because they had seen him just two short weeks before? Joseph’s body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Arras Memorial; he was 22 years old.

Background. When the German spring offensive opened on 21 March 1918, 31st Division was in reserve, with 10th and 11th EYR Battalions digging trenches in the ‘Army Line’ behind the front. On 23 March the division was sent up to hold off the German attack at St Léger, but 92 Bde remained in reserve at Ervillers, improvising the defences. Ervillers was attacked on the evening of 24 March, the defence being confused by British troops retreating from the forward defences. Two companies of 10th Bn were pushed up to reinforce 11th Bn fighting in the village streets. About midnight a German patrol got into the village, but was captured by 11th Bn’s HQ staff. The following day the 11th Bn was reinforced by 10th Bn Manchester Regiment of 42nd (East Lancashire) Division and their combined fire stopped the German advance. However, events elsewhere meant that the 31st and 42nd Divisions were ordered on the morning of 27 March to retire through Courcelles-le-Comte.

On 27th March 1917, the brigade defended Ayette aerodrome against repeated attacks from 11.20am to 16.30pm, when with both flanks ‘in the air’, the brigade pulled back to the partly-dug ‘Purple Line’ in front of Ayette village. Between 24 and 27 March, 10th EYR Bn had lost 211 officers and men, and was praised “for its exceptional gallantry on March 27” by the Commander in Chief of the BEF, Sir Douglas Haig. During the night, Lt-Col Headlam of 10th Bn led up a composite battalion of troops from the quartermasters’ details of all three battalions to take over part of the Purple Line, and they helped to recover some 18-pounder ammunition from behind enemy lines, which was fired the following day. Although fighting continued elsewhere along the line, 28 March was a quieter day for 92 Bde, and 11th Bn took over some trenches started by 210th Field Company, Royal Engineers, which they continued to dig. The brigade was relieved on 31 March and marched back to billets near Pommier.

First name:
Military Number:
Date Died
Place died:
Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France