|Three British infantrymen are pictured in front of their blockhouse - one in an extensive chain of fortifications set up by
General Roberts to hamper the free movement of the Boer Commandos.
All three men pose in shirtsleeve's and it is interesting to note that all three have different pattern bandoleers. The man
standing on the right is identified on the reverse of the card as Joe Breen.
No. 7044 Private Joseph Breen was born about 1880 in Halifax, Yorkshire the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Breen. A mason by
trade he attested with the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment on 18 February, 1901 having previously served with the
1st Volunteer Battalion of that same regiment. Standing 5 feet, 7 1/2 inches tall and weighing 133 pounds at the time of his
enlistment Breen was described as having s fresh complexion with grey eyes and brown hair.
Breen deployed to South Africa with his regiment 16 March, 1901. His time with the colours during the Anglo-Boer War was
somewhat limited and he took his discharge on 24 June, 1902 having served for a total of 1 year, 101 days. His service papers
state list his entitlement to the Queen's South Africa Medal with no clasps being specified.
With the outbreak of World War One, Breen re-enlisted this time with the 3 Coy., Army Service Corps on 7 September, 1914.
Not long afterward - an perhaps living up to the term "Short Service" - Breen was quickly discharged on 6 November. 1914
with the note "Not likely to become and efficient soldier." given as the reason. During his short stint with the ASC Breen held
the rank of Driver with the regimental number 3321. One has to go through several pages of Breen's Great War service papers
before the notation "...Recommended for discharge by the medical officer..." is found. A bit further on the actual medical cause
is finally mentioned and in Breen's case this included "Varicose veins on inner side of right thigh..." and "...swelling on the
inner side of right knee.". Another note in his papers states that Breen was fit for discharge on medical grounds and not for
transfer to the Royal Engineers. The obvious implication of this statement is that Breen was actively seeking a way to stay in
In a classic case of not keeping a good man down Breen seems to have finally gotten his wish and an note dated 4 July, 1916
states that Breen had by that time re-enlisted and was now No. 49557 Private in "B" Section, 68th Field Ambulance of the
Royal Army Medical Corps, British Mediterranean Forces, the Balkans. The 68th was attached to the 22nd Division. Breen's
medal index card shows him being entitled to the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals. It also shows him
having been appointed acting corporal.
At the time of his initial re-enlistment in 1914 Breen was mentioned as being married with his wife's name being Adeline. The
couple was shown to have three children: Dora, Philip and Joseph.
Although the photo's back mark indicates a Halifax photographer, W. Bottomley in all likelihood reprinted this image from
another produced by a South African photographer. The bright mark in the upper right hand side of the photograph is a
reflection that occurred when Bottomley rephotographed the original image.
W. Bottomley - Photographer