Joe Denford was born about 1899 in Merton, Devon, the eldest child of Charles Denford, a labourer living in Clapper Cottage, Lowertown, and his wife Ann. The 1901 census shows that Joe, then aged 2 years old was living with his grandparents in Petrockstow, Devon, possibly a temporary arrangement because of the birth of his younger brother. In the 1911 census Joe is recorded as being 12 years old, with the younger brother, Frank, aged 11, living in Clapper Cottage, Lowertown. In 1914 Joe was only 15 years old, so that unless he enlisted below age he would not have been conscripted until at least 1917 or early 1918.
We know from the Roll of Honour that he served in the Royal Engineers, but there is no medal card which makes it extremely unlikely that he served overseas. To add to the difficulties, his service records were destroyed in the London blitz. The Royal Engineers developed during the war into a huge and complex organisation, and ‘The Long Trail’ web-site gives the details:
‘The war of 1914-1918 relied on engineering. Without the Royal Engineers there would have been no supply to the armies, because the RE's maintained the railways, roads, water supply, bridges and transport. RE's also operated the railways and inland waterways. There would have been no communications, because the RE's maintained the telephones, wireless and other signalling equipment. There would have been little cover for the infantry and no positions for the artillery, because the RE's designed and built the front-line fortifications. It fell to the technically skilled RE's to develop responses to chemical and underground warfare. And finally, without the RE's the infantry and artillery would have soon been powerless, as they maintained the guns and other weapons.’
We can only presume that somewhere Joe Denford fitted into this service, but with very little known so far, it is to be hoped that help can be given by family descendents who can perhaps one day help us to record more detail.
16 July 2011