Joseph Downes was born in Macclesfield in 1889 and baptised at St John's Church, Statham St, Macclesfield on 31 July 1889, the son of Ann (nee Bailey) and Joseph Downes, a baker of 9 Back Samuel St, Macclesfield. In 1891, one-year-old Joseph was living at 12 Elizabeth St with his parents and siblings James Dale (8) and Sarah (4). By 1901, the family had moved to 20 Elizabeth Street and included three more children: Elizabeth (7), Charles (5) and Ann (2); another child, Evelyn, was born in 1901.
By 1911 Joseph had left school and was employed as a baker in the family business.
By the time of Joseph's death, the family had moved to 157 Park Lane, Macclesfield.
Joseph attested in Macclesfield in October 1916, joining the Army Service Corps as a baker with service number 217816. In January 1918 Private Downes was transferred to "C" Company of the 4th Manchester Regt, service number 62143, and in May 1918 he was drafted to France and transferred to the York and Lancaster Regt.
It is not known exactly where Private Downes was killed, but his death was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 11 October 1918:
Mr and Mrs J Downes, 157 Park Lane, Macclesfield, have been notified of the death of their son, Private Joseph Downes, York and Lancaster Regt, in action on Sept 18th. Pte Downes, who was 29 years of age, enlisted as a baker in the ASC about two years ago. He was later transferred to the Manchester Regiment and afterwards to the York and Lancaster Regt. He served in France for many months and was a Lewis gunner.
He was educated at Duke Street School and attended the Parish Church and the Bible class. Prior to enlistment he assisted his father in the business of bakers and confectioners, Elizabeth Street.
Two brothers are serving, one is in Egypt with the RGA and the other has been gassed and wounded and is at present home on leave. A brother-in-law, Lance-Corporal H Armitt, is serving with the Military Foot Police in France.
The officer of the deceased soldier writes: "Not only was he a splendid soldier in every way but he was well liked by everybody in the platoon. He was a good lad and did his work well."
Private Joseph Downes is buried at St. Nicolas British Cemetery, in grave ref. II. E. 9. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Joseph Downes, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
Locally, Private Joseph Downes is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall and St Michael's Church war memorials, and on St John's Church roll of honour.
Brother of James Dale Downes, who married Alice Sarah Atkins in 1907, moved to West Bridgford, Nottingham, and served as Gunner 132865 with the Royal Garrison Artillery; and Charles Downes, who served as Gunner 112769 with the Tank Corps.
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers: St John's Church, Macclesfield
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
WWI British Army Service Records 1914-1920 (Find My Past)
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards (Ancestry)
WWI Britain Absent Voters’ Lists (Find My Past)
Lives of the First World War website
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Macclesfield Times: 11 October 1918
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.