Joseph was born in 1893 in Bedminster and in 1901 was living with his grandparents, George and Marianne Milner. Grandfather George was a customs officer who originated from Monmouthshire. By 1911 Joseph had moved to 76 Payliss Street, Barry Island and was working as a dock labourer, he is a lodger at the property and is unmarried. Enlisting in the army he served as Private No. 16178 in the 2nd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards.


Joseph died on the 29th October 1914 age 21 of wounds received at Polygon Wood off the Menin Road in Flanders. Polygon Wood was the scene of early fighting during the Great War, during the First Battle of Ypres in 1914. On the 25th of October the Germans held the northern half of the wood, and 1st Irish Guards and 2nd Grenadier Guards were ordered to clear them out. During their advance here, nine of the Irish Guards were killed and four wounded by a single shell. The scene was described as “a slaughter-house”. During the early hours of the next day, the two battalions were reinforced by the 3rd Coldstream Guards, and attacked again. By this time, the Irish Guards, having had no food for 48 hours, were at last allowed to eat their emergency rations!. The wood was taken but as usual with appalling casualties one of whom was Joseph.


The only family member in his will was Joseph Henry Heathcote who received the total sum of just over £75. Being one of the “Old Contemptibles” Joseph was awarded the 1914 Star with clasp also known as the Mons Star plus the British War and Victory medals.