|Above: No. 3929 Private and sometimes Lance Corporal Joseph Howard Cofield (seated) of the 2nd Battalion, the Manchester Regiment with an unnamed fellow soldier in India.
Henry Schulze & Company - Photographer
Lucknow & Mussoorie, India
It was not all that uncommon for a man to enlist in the army under an assumed name in times past. The reasons for doing so were as varied as the men themselves and exactly why
Joseph Howard Cofield did so is lost to history. While many such men enlisted under total assumed names Joseph Howard Cofield simply dropped in surname of Cofield and took the
Queen’s shilling under his proper and middle name of Joseph Howard when he attested with the Manchester Regiment on 5 July 1893.
Cofield was a bit older than most prospective soldiers at the time he attested for short service being almost 24 years old at the time. He was born at St. Mary’s, Lancashire, England
and based on his stated age when he attested he must have been born about 1871 though his latter military records raise some questions regarding his actual age and date of birth. His
as yet unnamed father as apparently deceased at the time but his service papers give his mother’s name as Catherine Howard living in Cheshire
Posted as No. 3929 with the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment he started off badly being tried by court-martial for violence toward an officer being found guilty and sentenced
to six months imprisonment in February 1896. He was released in July of 1896 and had his good conduct pay restored one calendar year later. On 11 November 1897, he was
transferred to the 1st Battalion, the Manchester Regiment.
After his initial fisticuffs with his officer Cofield settled down and seems to have become something like a model soldier. Appointed Lance Corporal on 9 March 1898 and this
appointment was upgraded to a paid one on 25 July 1898. For reasons unknown Cofield was reduced to private at his own request on 1 June 1899. Granted good conduct pay on 6 July
1899 he was demobilized at the end of the Anglo-Boer War on 24 September 1902 into the Section “D” supplemental reserves. He reengaged with the Section “D” supplemental
reserves on 5 June 1905 serving with the “D” reserves until final discharge on 5 July 1909.
A well-traveled soldier during his years with the colours, Cofield was initially stationed at home from 6 July 1893 until 4 February 1895 when he deployed to India with the 1st
Battalion. He would remain there is garrison duty until 20 July 1897 when he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion in Malta. He remained in Malta until 7 February 1898 when he
moved on to Gibraltar.
With the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa, the 1st Manchesters headed for the war on 23 August 1899 and would remain in theater until 6 September 1902. Cofield would see
action at Belfast, the Defense of Ladysmith and Laing’s Neck receiving clasps for all three actions on his Queen’s South Africa Medal. He would also receive the King’s South Africa
Medal with its two obligatory “South Africa - 1901” and “South Africa - 1902” clasps.
On 12 January 1889 Cofield would marry Mary Elizabeth Ackary possibly in India. The couple would have at least three sons: Joseph (b. 1894), John (b. 1903) and William (b. 1907).
The family apparently resided at Ashton, Lancashire
Cofield had about five years of peaceful family life before the outbreak of the First World War. On 22 August 1914 Cofield reenlisted for one year’s service with the Special Reserves.
He would remain in uniform until the end of the war serving with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of his old regiment the Manchesters, the 3/Cheshires, the 3/Royal Welsh Fusiliers and later
with the Labour Corps. Cofield was appointed paid Lance Corporal on 1 September 1916 and unlike his previous appointment some 17 years before he retained his appointment until
his discharge on 19 March 1918 when he automatically reverted to his former rank of Private.
Cofield remained on the home front until 22 February 1915 when he deployed to France with the 2/Manchester Regiment remaining in France until 5 July 1916 when he received and
head wound that led to his evacuation home. Initially assigned to the Manchester’s depot he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion on 19 August 1916. Towards the end of the year on 29
December 1916 he was posted to the 3/Cheshires until 16 July 1917 when he was transferred to the 3/Royal Welsh Fusiliers. On 12 August 1917 Cofield was assigned to the Labour
Corps and served in a number of different battalions until being discharged as no longer fit for military service on 19 March 1918. Cofield’s service papers are silent as to the precise
nature of his head would other that it occurred in the field. It may or may not have been the result of enemy action and he must have remained convalescing from the date of his return
from France until discharge.
Cofield was initially issued a War Service Badge at the time of his discharge and would later receive the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals for his services during
the Great War.
Little information regarding Joseph Howard Cofield’s life after the end of the war nor how his wounds may have affected his life have been found. The 1939 Register for England and
Wales lists Cofield as being "Incapacitated by illness". He passed away from heart failure at Ashton, Lancashire, England in February, 1941.
|Above: The reverse side of Cofield's portrait contains a fair amount of information other than that associated with the usual photographer's back mark. Cofield himself is
identified in pencil with the that fact he was serving in France at the time it was written. This along with Cofield's war time rank of lance corporal dates this inscription to
1915-16. Additionally, Cofield's wife is noted along with her address and appears to be in the same hand as the first mentioned inscription. Another photographic firm - the
Minton Portrait Company of Oldham - applied its rubber stamp along with a notation showing that a 20 by 16 inch black and white enlargement of this photograph had been