McGUIRE Joseph 1887 – 1915

JOSEPH McGUIRE 1887 – 1915

2587 Private Joseph McGuire 1/9th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 14 July 1915, aged 28.  He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium[1] and the Witton Park war memorials.  He may be the J. McQuire commemorated on the St. Helens Colliery Memorial Cottages, Maude Terrace, St. Helen’s Auckland, Bishop Auckland, County Durham.[2]

Family Details

Joseph was born 1887 in Gleno, County Tyrone, Ireland, [3] the son of James and Bridget McGuire who lived at Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham.  In 1891, 24 years old Bridget lived with her mother Catherine Docherty at 10 Thompson Street, Witton Park with her young family, including 5 years old Joseph.  Her children were:

  • Catherine born c.1884
  • Joseph born c.1886
  • John Henry born c.1889
  • James born c.1891

All children were born in Ireland.[4]  At this time, their father 30 years old James lived worked in the upper Gaunless Valley, near Woodland.  He boarded with Owen and Mary McQuillan and their family along with Patrick Boylan and Michael McCoy.  Owen, Patrick, Michael and James were all Irish and they worked as coal miners and coke drawers at Crake Scar Colliery and lived in an isolated settlement called Crake Scar Huts where there was a strong Irish contingent.[5]  By 1901, 39 years old James lived with his wife Bridget and their children at the Old Brewery, Stanley, County Durham.  He worked as a coke drawer.  Joseph, now 17 years old, worked as a colliery labourer.  Joseph’s sister Catherine (aged 17) was married to 20 year old Patrick Taggart (born in Ireland) and they had a 3 month old son, James born at Stanley, Co. Durham.[6]

In 1909, Joseph McGuire married Jane Coggon at Lanchester, County Durham.[7]  They had 3 children:[8]

  • Florence Theresa born 5 February 1910
  • Bridget born 27 February 1912
  • James born 5 March 1914

 In 1911, Joseph, Jane and their daughter Florence Theresa (born at West Stanley) lived at Swalwell, Gateshead where Joseph worked as a coal miner.  Their niece, 4 year old Catherine Taggart was with them at the time of the census.[9]  Patrick and Catherine Taggart still lived at West Stanley and by 1911 had 7 children. [10]  After Joseph’s death, Jane returned to West Stanley and lived in Theresa Street close to her sister-in-law, Catherine Taggart.[11]  Joseph’s parents lived at Woodside, hence his inclusion on Witton Park’s war memorials.

Service Record

The service record of Private J. McGuire has not been traced and the war diary of the 9th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry (DLI) has not been researched.  The 1/9th DLI was a territorial battalion and in August 1914 it was raised at Gateshead as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division.[12]  The battalion landed in Boulogne in April 1915 and came under the orders of the 151st Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division in May 1915.  At that time, other battalions in the 151st Brigade were:

  • 1/6th Bn., DLI
  • 1/7th Bn., DLI 
  • 1/8th Bn., DLI
  • 1/5th Bn., Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, joined 11 June 1915
  • 1/5th Bn., Border Regiment joined from 149th Brigade December 1915
DLI Cap Badge

By 23 April 1915, the Division was at Steenvoorde and arrived just as the German Army attacked nearby Ypres using poison gas for the first time.  The Division was rushed into battle and took part in the following engagements, the Second Battles of Ypres:

  • 24 April – 4 May: Battle of St. Julien
  • 8 – 13 May: Battle of Frezenberg
  • 24-25 May Battle of Bellewaarde [13]

Private Joseph McGuire arrived in France 14 April 1915[14] and survived this baptism of fire but was killed in action 3 months later, 14 July 1915.[15] The 151st Brigade occupied trenches to the south of Ypres opposite Messines Ridge and in front of Kemmel Hill.  Enemy shelling and sniping were constant threats but then there was the underground war.  The Germans blew a mine under a sector of trenches immediately to the north and very close to the battalion’s position.  In total 5 men were buried and despite rescue attempts, all were dead when their bodies were uncovered. [16]  Private J. McGuire, 2080 Corporal J. Barker, 1682 Private C. Harris, 2092 Private G McLeay and 2662 Private N. Towler were killed in action that day.[17]

Awards and Medals

Private J. McGuire was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals. [18]

Medal Roll Card Index


Joseph’s wife Jane received his effects[19] and the pension award for his children.  At this time, she lived at 14 Theresa Street, West Stanley and Catherine Taggart was noted to be the guardian of at least one of the children.[20]


Private J. McGuire and his 4 comrades have no known graves and all are commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial which bears the names of more than 50,000 officers and men who were killed prior to 16 August 1917 and whose graves are unknown.  It was unveiled 24 July 1927. [21]

The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial

In addition to the Witton Park war memorials, it is believed that Private J. McGuire, prior to enlisting, worked at St. Helen’s Colliery.  As a result, his name although spelt J. McQuire is included on the commemorative tablet on the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages.  Four cottages built near the Colliery Institute, St. Helen’s Auckland, constitute the local war memorial.  Two were erected by Messrs. Pease & Partners, owners of the colliery and two by subscriptions of the men employed there.  The formal opening took place Saturday 12 November 1921.[22] 


Joseph was born in Ireland the son of James and Bridget McGuire. He lived and worked at West Stanley, Swallwell and possibly St. Helen’s Colliery.  He joined his local Territorial Force, the 9th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry and entered France with his battalion in April 1915, seeing action at the Second Battle of Ypres when the Germans used gas against the Allies, (French and Canadian troops).  Aged 28, Joseph was killed in action in July 1915 at Messines, near Ypres, Belgium.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.  His parents lived at Woodside, hence his inclusion on Witton Park’s war memorials. He left a widow and 3 children.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] No connection with St. Helen’s Auckland and St. Helens Colliery has been confirmed.  No other family named McGuire or McQuire has been traced living in the Bishop Auckland area.  It may seem unlikely that a family would move from north west Durham and Tyneside to St. Helens.  There were more employment opportunities there than in south west Durham.  Nevertheless, that may have been the case.  In the absence of any other information an assumption has been made that 2587 Private Joseph McGuire is the soldier commemorated on the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages albeit the link is somewhat tenuous.

[3] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1891 census

[6] 1901 census Note: John Henry (born c.1889) and James (born c.1891) were not recorded

[7] England & Wales BMD marriage index 1837-1915 Lanchester Vol 10a p647

[8] Pension Claimant card index

[9] 1911 census

[10] 1911 census

[11] Commonwealth War Graves Commission and 1911 census


[13] &

[14] Medal Roll card index

[15] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[16] “The Gateshead Gurkhas: a history of the 9th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry 1859-1967” H. Moses (2001) p.28

[17] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[18] Medal Roll card index and Rolls dated 4 October 1919 & 25 March 1920

[19] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.200327

[20] Pension Claimant card index

[21] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[22] Darlington & Stockton Times (North) 19 November 1921 and