A World War One hero who single-handedly captured a German machine gun and eight prisoners will be honoured in a ceremony in Salford this Sunday .
Ordsall-born Joseph Woodall, who was serving with the 1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade went on to capture 30 more prisoners and took charge of two platoons when the officer in charge was killed.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous bravery and fine leadership during an attack” as army chiefs said the success of the operation that day was almost entirely due to his “coolness, courage and utter disregard for his own personal safety.”
On Sunday April 22 a commemorative paving stone will be laid in his memory in Regent Square Park, Salford watched by family and the local community.
Grandson Michael Mahoney, will travel from Australia for the occasion. He will be joined by Nigel Mahoney, Joseph’s great-grandson and Nick Crompton and other members of Joseph’s family.
Michael, a Chartered Accountant from Manly Beach, Sydney Australia said he had travelled 12,000 miles: “to join with the wonderful people of Salford to honour the bravery, gallantry and valour of our hero, Joseph Edward Woodall VC.”
Joseph’s paving stone will be unveiled next to The Regent Park war memorial which commemorates 46 local men who died in World War One and hundreds of others who served in that and other wars.
Joseph Edward Woodall was born in Robinson Street, off Regent Road, on 1 June 1896, and was the second of 11 children. He was educated at St Ambrose infants school until the family moved to Patricroft where he attended Beech Street school.
After leaving school he worked at George Mort’s quilt manufacturers in Legh Street, Patricroft and joined the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (now the Royal Green Jackets) on 2 September 1914.
On 11 April 1918 the 1st Battalion was rushed up in buses to a position on the La Bassée Canal, France, to stem a German breakthrough in a battle which is now known as The Battle of the Lys or the Fourth Battle of Ypres.
Over the next 11 days Joseph’s battalion was involved in severe fighting in the area around Hinges and Robecq. On 22 April, together with the 1st Hampshires, the battallion took part in an attack which helped secure the Canal. It was during this fighting that Lance Serjeant * Joseph Woodall earned his Victoria Cross on the far side of the canal at La Pannerie. [Correct spelling of this rank with the Rifle Brigade]
His citation reads:
“Sjt. Woodall was in command of a platoon which, during an advance, was held up by a machine gun. On his own initiative he rushed forward and, single-handed, captured the gun and eight men.
After the objective had been gained, heavy fire was encountered from a farmhouse some 200 yards in front. Sjt. Woodall collected ten men and, with great dash and gallantry, rushed the farm and took thirty prisoners. Shortly afterwards, when the officer in command was killed, he took entire command, reorganised the two platoons, and disposed them most skilfully.
Throughout the day, in spite of intense shelling and machine-gun fire, this gallant N.C.O. was constantly on the move, encouraging the men and finding out and sending back invaluable information. The example set by Sjt. Woodall was simply magnificent, and had a marked effect on the troops. The success of the operation on this portion of the front is attributed almost entirely to his coolness, courage and utter disregard for his own personal safety.”
Joseph Woodall was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 23 November 1918. He remained in the army after the war and on 7 March 1919 became a Second Lieutenant with one of the Service Battalions of The Rifle Brigade. He retired from the army as a Captain on 1 September 1921 and resumed civilian life.
Joseph married Rosannah Lighton on 14 June 1923 at St Sebastian’s RC Church, Pendleton and undertook a textiles course at Salford Technical school. Despite coming through World War One unscathed Joseph lost part of his arm to unfenced machinery while working at a mill in Oldham.
The family, including daughter Patricia, mother to Michael Mahoney and son David, moved to Bramhall where Joseph worked as a cotton yarn salesman. He moved to Eire in 1955 where he died aged 65 on January 2, 1962 in Dublin.
In 1910 the Mid-Antrim Friends of the Somme unveiled a commemoration stone in Dean’s Grange cemetery, Dun Laoghaire after learning Joseph was buried there without a headstone of his own. He is also commemorated on the Rifle Brigade memorial in Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire.
Joseph Woodall VC’s paving stone, which will be unveiled by his family is part of the First World War Centenary campaign to honour recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC). Over 460 paving stones will be laid in communities across Britain. Joseph Lister VC, from Broughton, who was awarded the VC in 1917, was commemorated last October with a paving stone outside Broughton Hub.