Joseph (Joe) Mellers

KOYLILance Sergeant, 241059 (previously 3508), B Company, 2/5th (Territorial) Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, killed in action 3rd May 1917, aged 21

Born at Eastoft in July 1895, Joe was the youngest son and one of the eight children of John Edward and Mary Ann Mellers (nee Huntingdon). His mother was from Eastoft and his father was from Owston Ferry. The family lived in Wash Hole Lane and in 1901 both of his parents were described as farm workers. In 1911 Joseph was a draper (although aged 15 most likely an assistant one).

Joe joined the King’s Own Light Infantry (KOYLI) as a territorial soldier most likely in 1914, where he was allocated to B (Doncaster) Company of the 5th Battalion. He may have joined in September 1914 as this was the time when the unit he served with 2/5th Battalion were formed as a second line unit of the 5th Battalion. The 2/5th KOYLI served at home until January 1917 when they landed in France as part of the 187th Brigade in 62nd (West Riding) Division.

The battalion had its first taste of action when it took over front line trenches in the Beaumont Hamel – Miramont area in mid-February, just as the German’s were retreating back to the Hindenburg Line and took part in the operations there.

In April the 2/5th KOYLI were in the Bullecourt area, alternating between periods of rest and duty in the front line. On the evening of 2nd May they moved forward again ready for a major attack, the Second Battle of Bullecourt, the next morning. The 2/5th KOYLI were part of the second wave of attack on the line north of Bullecourt, setting off at 3.45am.

Immediately they were faced with significant problems. The battalion ahead of them had failed to clear their objective due to the thick barbed wire and this combined with hanging artillery smoke, dust and darkness meant considerable confusion and targets for enemy machine guns. A second attack was also halted by heavy machine gun fire and the troops sought shelter in shell craters in no-man’s land until instructed to withdraw that evening.

In the attack at Bullecourt the 2/5th KOYLI lost 38 men killed, 163 wounded. and 70 missing. Joe Mellers was one of the missing. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial.