2 January 2010

Captain Joseph Woodall VC died on the 2nd January 1962, aged 65, in St Michael's Hospital, Dublin, after being found by his neighbour Joseph King, with burns to his legs and body following a seizure. He died of bronchial pneumonia brought on by the burns. Woodall was buried in Dean's Grange Cemetery in a plot owned by Joseph King who was later also buried in the same plot his name engraved on the headstone, but not Woodall's.

The Mid-Antrim Friends of the Somme group decided to raise funds for a headstone after learning from Great War Researcher Liam Dodd that Joseph Woodall VC, who served with the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, was not recognised in Dean's Grange Cemetery, Dublin.

The project to raise the necessary funds was successful by involving various organisations which included the UDR Association; the Medal Society of Ireland; Friends of the Somme; Antrim Community Church and Air Cadets ( NI Command ); the UUP in Antrim; along with a generous donation from Larne businessman Kenny Hogg. The task to design and construct a memorial stone to commemorate Joseph Woodall VC was given to Mark Davidson a monumental sculptor in Ballyclare who has great experience in this field and who also made a generous donation in kind.

On the 2nd January 2010 a prestigious ceremony took place in Dean's Grange Cemetery where a headstone was unveiled to commemorate the life of Captain Joseph Woodall VC. ( Owing to the wishes of the King family, the Woodall memorial stone was not placed over his actual burial spot but located elsewhere in the cemetery )>

On the 11th April 1918 the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, was rushed up in buses to a position on the La Bassée Canal in order to try and stem the German breakthrough on the Lys. Over the next eleven days it was involved in severe fighting in the area around Hinges and Robecq. On the 22nd April, together with the 1st Hampshires, it took part in an attack which helped secure the Canal. It was during this fighting that Lance Sergeant Joseph Woodall earned his Victoria Cross on the far side of the canal at La Pannerie.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 28 June 1918 ], La Pannerie, France, 22 April 1918, Lance Sergeant Joseph Edward Woodall, 1st Bn, The Rifle Brigade.

For most conspicuous bravery and fine leadership during an attack.

( La Pannerie, France ) 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 the 23rd November 1918.

Joseph Woodall stayed in the Army after the war and on 7th 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 1st September 1921.

Medal entitlement of Captain Joseph Edward Woodall - 1st Bn, The Rifle Brigade
( on loan and on display at the Imperial War Museum, London )

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914 - 15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )


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Iain Stewart, 4 January 2010