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100 years ago: Brave Eccles cook who fought to enlist killed by stray shell

It would be a hard slog for 21-year-old Joe Baines to be accepted into the British Army.

The pressure to enlist and fight overseas was immense if you looked healthy enough and were of around the right age.

And while recruiters often turned a blind eye to men under the age limit, for those with medical problems it was more difficult to join their friends and comrades on the front line.

When war broke out young Joe was living on Silk Street in Eccles and working at the Eccles Bleach Works.

Eccles Bleach Works Reservoir - by Bernard Wakefield, Salford Museum & Art Gallery

Eccles Bleach Works Reservoir – by Bernard Wakefield, Salford Museum & Art Gallery

As scores of his friends and colleagues from the shop floor enlisted to the King’s Liverpool regiment, Joe tried too, but was discharged with defective eyesight.

It meant he was deemed unfit for military service. It turned out to be months before he could try again.

In November 1915 Joe found a way in through the Manchester Regiment, where he was accepted and started to prepare to head out into the firing line.

His postition would not be to fight, or to man the artillery as a gunner, but instead to be a cook.

XIII Platoon, 16th Manchesters - manchesters.org

XIII Platoon, 16th Manchesters – manchesters.org

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He would survive only six months before his wife, married the year before, received the dreaded letter informing her of Joe’s death.

Just weeks before she had given birth to a baby son who Joe hadn’t seen – and never would.

The letter from his Company Sergeant told that Joe was one of the cooks in the regiment, adding: “He was none too strong, but he made up for that in pluck and endurance.”

The day before he was killed Joe was cooking in the camp a few miles from the front line whe he asked if he could be sent to take the place of a wounded soldier who had been brought back to camp.

His request was refused.

However the next day the catering unit was ordered to form up just behind the front line.

As they were being relieved by other troops making their way back to their camp, tragedy struck.

A German shell dropped alongside their cooker, the blast downing both horses pulling the wagon, injuring two other cooks on the ride-along and tragically killing Joe outright.

His untimely death would be just one of many local men who joined up determined to do their bit, rewarded with a pointless death in a foreign land and leaving behind a devastated young family.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.