L/Cpl Albert Joynson
How Lance Corporal Albert Joynson, Of The 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers
Won The D.C.M. At Hooge
The midsummer campaign of 1915 in the West was, if we except the German Crown Prince’s offensive movement in the Argonne, confined to small local attacks and counter attacks. But, though the loss or gain of ground was, in most instances, of trifling importance, these small affairs were frequently characterized by desperate fighting, which afforded not a few opportunities for individual distinction. Of such a kind was the British attack on the enemy’s position south of Hooge on the morning of June 16th, in which Lance Corporal Albert Joynson, of the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The “Fighting Fifth” had marched from Vlamatinghe the previous evening, in the highest spirits, singing all the latest songs as they swung along, and reached our trenches about midnight. Our artillery preparation was timed to start at 2.15 a.m., but the German artillery forestalled it by a few minutes and gave our men an unpleasantly warm time of it. However the British shelling was still more effective, and in two hours the enemy’s entanglements had been absolutely blown away. Then came the order, “Over you go!” And over the parapet of the assembly trench went our brave fellows, and made a dash for the German first line trenches, which were not fifty yards away. On the left of the assailants were among the
enemy with the bayonet almost before the astonished Huns knew that a charge was being made; but, on the right, where our men had to pass through a little nullah, the attack was held up by the fire of a machine gun hidden in a tree and worked by a man who was chained to the gun, which had been trained so as to sweep the nullah. Finally, the British artillery blew Hun and gun right out of the tree, but not before they had done a great deal of mischief.
Lance-Corporal Joynson, who was on the right of the attack, was one of the few men to get across while the machine gun was still in action, though he did not come through altogether scathes, as one of its bullets chipped a piece of flesh from his right thumb and carried away part of the stock of his rifle, without, however, damaging the barrel. Having bandaged up his thumb, Joynson crept round the machine gun traverse into a German first line trench, which the enemy had prudently evacuated. Here he met an officer looking about for bomb throwers, and went with him on an exploring expedition up communication trenches, where one of the Liverpool Scottish-a Territorial battalion which greatly distinguished itself that day-told them that he and a few of his comrades had captured part of a trench, but that they wanted bombers to drive the Germans out of the rest of it, which was still in their hands. On being shown where the Germans, Joynson readily undertook to move them on, and proceeded to bomb them s effectively that they retreated in disorder to the extremity if the trench. The Fusilier pursued them for some distance down the trench, which was strewn with an assortment of cigars, lemons, chocolates and other dainties, and then returned and built a barricade to keep them at a distance, which he did until 2 p.m., when the Germans got reinforcements, and he and his comrades were obliged to retire in their turn. They then went and lay down in the open behind the next line of trenches, where Joynson was smoking tranquilly,
when some of the Royal Irish Rifles came to ask for bomb throwers. He and another man went and rendered them very effective assistance, and remained in that line of trenches until about midnight, when one of the officers of the R.I.R.s came and asked Joynson how many men he had with him. On being told fourteen, he said these ought to be sufficient to hold the trench until they were relieved by the 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers in three hours time, and that he therefore intended to withdraw his own men. Joynson thought this a very risky proceeding, but he said nothing, fearing to dishearten his men, and though very heavily shelled the little band held their ground gallantly until dawn, when relief arrived. Joynson was hit by a piece of shrapnel in the right shoulder, but the wound, happily, was not a serious one. This intrepid Fusiliers, who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, “for conspicuous gallantry,” is thirty years of age, and his home is at Bradford, Yorkshire.
Extracted from 'Deeds That Thrill The Empire' Naval & Military Press