Joseph Herbert Withers was a schoolboy from Corkley, Tassagh, Co. Armagh during World War Two. Joseph died in the Armagh County Infirmary on 22nd October 1941 aged 11 years old.
Joseph was helping an elderly man called Nathaniel Weir to carry corn across the fields near Aughnagurgan Mountain, Keady, Co. Armagh. Another local farmer, William Russell, observed as the tragic scenes unfolded. He heard an explosion and saw a plume of smoke rise into the Co. Armagh sky. Archibald Withers, the boy’s father was nearby working in another field. He also heard the explosion as workers brought in the harvest.
Joseph Withers remained conscious after the explosion. He told witnesses that he found a bomb on the hill and it exploded as he threw it down the hillside. He died later that day due to the wounds sustained in the explosion. Nathaniel Weir received treatment at the same hospital for his injuries.
The Belfast Telegraph on 25th October 1941 carried the following:
Archibald Withers, father of the dead boy, giving evidence last night, said that he sent the lad to carry corn for Weir who was working in a field. Later he heard an explosion and shouting but did not go over because his wife said that it might be the military on the mountain. Afterward, he was told of the accident and went over to see his son.
The boy told him that he had picked up two bombs on a path near Weir’s home. He had not been near the mountain. An officer said that on October 21, he had been on the mountain with a party of troops on grenade practice. The range was more than a mile from Weir’s house and there was not the slightest possibility of one of the bombs dropping near Weir’s cottage,
Sergeant Crozier said he found in Weir’s house an unexploded smoke bomb. In Mrs. Evans’ at Aughnagurgan in a shed, he found two bombs, one of smoke and one H.E. unexploded.
Remembering Joseph Herbert Withers
Armagh County Coroner Mr. Geoffrey Anderson held an inquest after the incident. The Ulster Gazette and Armagh Standard newspapers both carried the story on 31st October 1941. Withers’ name features in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s list of civilian casualties. His funeral took place at Armagh New Cemetery, Armagh, Co. Armagh on 25th October 1941.