Originally from Eardon, Northumberland, Joseph Thompson had been employed at the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) Green Fruit Department in Newcastle. His father was also involved with the CWS, as the manager of the greengrocers at the Washington branch of the Birtley Co-operative Society.
He enlisted in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 18th Battalion prior to 1917. This battalion was known as the 1st Tyneside Pioneers, which had been originally raised by the Mayor of Newcastle in November 1914. The battalion saw action in the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres.
Thompson was dispatched to fight on the Western Front along with his unit. Unfortunately, he was killed in action on 10 August 1917 in Flanders, Belgium.
He was far from the only soldier to meet his end in Flanders, as the area was hotly contested by both sides. The key battles in Flanders took place around the town of Ypres, which was fought over for practically the entirety of the war. Both sides were determined to capture the town due to the high ground that surrounded it. The area and the poppies that grew where the battlefields had been were immortalised in the John McCrae poem ‘In Flanders Fields.’ Both the poem and the symbol of the poppy have become important parts of the annual Remembrance Day celebrations.
Co-operative News, 8 September 1917, page 849.
http://www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/northumberlandfusiliers18.php [Accessed 11 April 2015].
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.