Joseph William Soper was born at the start of 1876, the third of eleven children to John and Elizabeth Soper. Both of his parents had been born in Dorset but it was in the Devon town of Axminster that their children were raised. John was a labourer, but, when he finished school, Joseph found work as an ostler or groom.
John passed away at the end of 1894, just months after his youngest son, Arthur, was born. Joseph, by this point, had found work as a postman, and, in the spring of 1897, he married Charlotte Annie Lee in his home town. The couple moved across the border to Somerset and settled in Chard. They went on to have a son, Arthur, who was born in the summer of 1900.
Postal work seemed not to have suited Joseph, and he made the move to labouring for a mason. Money appears to have been tight: the 1911 census recorded Charlotte working as a charwoman, while her younger brother, Herbert, was also lodging with them, and working as a grocer’s porter.
War was coming to Europe, but much of Joseph’s military career is a mystery. He had joined up by the autumn of 1916, and was assigned to the 13th (Works) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. He was based in Saltash and Plymouth, and served as part of the territorial force.
The only other documents available are Private Soper’s pension ledger and his entry on the Register of Soldier’s Effects. Both confirm that he died on 12th April 1917, and that the cause was “accidental injury received on active service“. Sadly, there is no further information about this. He was 41 years of age when he passed.
Joseph William Soper’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He lies at rest in Chard Cemetery, walking distance from where his widow and son still lived.