Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell was born in Middleton on 29th December 1881. As a child he lived for a time at 8 Burton Street with younger siblings Eliza, Herbert and Thomas before the family moved to 20 Parkfield. Joel followed his father James into the labourious work of the cotton mills before the Great War broke out in 1914. Although Joel was actually aged 33 by this time, he was still unmarried and immediately signed up to fight for his country, joining the 11th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. His records indicate that he was living at 3 Parkfields Street by this time and his Regimental Number was 9860.
In 1918 during the Battle of the River Aisne, Muscourt, France, he was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner for a short time before escaping back to the British territory. He was met with carnage along the way, seeing many of his comrades lying wounded in the chaos. Finding a stray enemy horse, he rode back through the heavy shell and gunfire to pick up the wounded one by one and take them back to safety. Braving these terrifying conditions over and over, he picked up ten of his comrades until unfortunately, the horse was fatally wounded. He then trekked well over a mile or so and back to bring water for the wounded.
He returned to Middleton where he was celebrated a hero. Thousands rallied to witness the Civic Parade laid on to welcome Joel and to see this brave man of our town for themselves. He modestly maintained that he had simply done what any comrade would have done having had the chance as it was only their duty. How he wasn't hit himself is nothing short of a miracle but saving his comrades was foremost on his mind rather than that of his own safety.
He recieved the Victoria Cross for valour, the highest award possible, and remains the only Middleton man to date to have recieved this honour. An extract from a supplement to the London Gazette, dated 25th July 1918, reads as follows;
No. 9860 L/Cpl Joel Halliwell, Lanc Fusrs. (Middleton)
His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the above named NCO.
For most conspicuous bravery and determination displayed during the withdrawal of the remnants of the Battallion when closely engaged with the enemy.
L/Cpl Halliwell, having captured a stray enemy horse rode out under heavy rifle fire and machine gun fire and rescued a wounded man from 'No Man's Land'.
He repeated this performance several times, and succeeded in rescuing one officer and nine other ranks. He made another effort to reach a wounded man, but was driven back by the very close advance of the enemy.
His conduct was magnificent throughout, and was a splendid and inspiring example to all who saw him.
In all, 1,356 VC's have been awarded. Lance Corporal Halliwell was one of 19 Lancashire Fusiliers to recieve one.
He went on to marry Sarah Greaves in 1920, have 3 children and run The New Inn on Long Street. He even tried to enlist to fight in WW2 but by this time, his age went against him and he was refused. He died 14th June 1958, aged 76, his funeral having full military honours, and is buried in Boarshaw Cemetery, Plot D, grave number 1068.Written by the editor. July 2008 (updated August 2010)