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Joseph was born in Wolverhampton in 1891, the son of Benjamin and Priscilla Wilkes. They were living at 63 Prestwood Road, Heath Town, Wolverhampton, in 1901, along with Joseph’s siblings Benjamin, Betsy, Clara, Esther, and John Henry. They were at 67 Prestwood Road by 1911, and Joseph had become a general labourer.

Joseph enlisted as a Gunner with the “C” Battery, of the 149th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery (number L/11222). he was wounded, and died of these wounds on 30 June 1917 at Fort Pitt Hill Hospital, Chatham. He is buried in Heath Town (Holy Trinity) Churchyard.