June 1885 – 28th October 1917. Sherwood Foresters (6th Battalion)
Joseph Tolson was a forward and a loyal servant of Manchester FC. Originally from Wilmslow, Tolson learned the game at its source – Rugby School. After spending what now might be termed a gap year in China and Japan, he returned to work for his father’s merchant business Tolson and Chisnall. He and his new wife Florence lived at 2 Bale Street, Manchester.
It was now that Tolson began his long stint with Manchester FC. He was club captain during his final season, 1912-13, after which he announced his retirement. In a distinguished career, he also represented Lancashire at county level. However, retirement did not end his involvement with the club – Tolson’s passion for Manchester was too strong. He remained active within the club as a vice president, and worked closely with the “B” team.
Tolson joined the Territorials in 1912, allegedly on the belief that war was on its way. When it arrived, he immediately volunteered for overseas service, and was sent to the Western Front in early 1915, as a commissioned officer with the 6th Sherwood Foresters. Two months later, Tolson was wounded – shot in the thigh during fighting at Kemmel, Flanders – but he quickly recovered.
Tolson returned to the front in October 1915, and stayed out of trouble for two years. His unit participated in the diversionary attack on Gommecourt during the first day of the Somme, and Tolson got through unscathed. In October 1917, whilst out on a daylight reconnaissance mission near Loos, Tolson was wounded and hospitalised. There he developed pneumonia, and died on the 28th October.
Tolson is buried at Chocques Military Cemetery, France. Plot 5, Row A, Grave 8.
“A Lack of Offensive Spirit?” The 46th North Midland Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916 – by Alan McDonald
Manchester Guardian and Observer Archives
Memorials of Rugbeians who Fell in the Great War, Vol, 1-7
World Rugby Museum