When I first sat down to write this, it began as the story of one man serving his country but as I began to recheck my facts, I realised that for one woman, this was actually the story of her family. Her husband. Her brother. Her brother in law. It must have changed her world irreparably, since only one of those men came back. And she won’t have been the only woman in this situation. We often talk about the losses of the First World War, but we don’t talk much about those who were left behind.
Let me start when I intended to begin. Pte. Joseph Harry Green (no. 19165) was born on 10 December 1886, the seventh child of twelve of John Green and Susanna Telley. As many of All Cannings were, Joseph was a farm labourer and is recorded as such in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, although by 1911 he’s living in Bishop’s Cannings, a village just over from where he was born. In 1907 Joseph married Alice Louisa Woodroffe, a local girl, and as the census shows by 1911 they had three small children. It is therefore Alice, really, around whom this post revolves.
Joseph’s service papers do not survive, as so many do not. His Medal Rolls Index Card shows that Joseph arrived in the Balkans on 17 September 1915, a private in the Duke of Edinburgh’s (the 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment). The 5th Battalion was formed at the outbreak of the First World War and was a service battalion. In June 1915, the division joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and saw the rest of the war out in the Mesopotamia.