Joseph Wordsworth was born in the summer of 1894, the eldest son of Joseph Ditch Wordsworth and his wife Mary. They lived on the home farm of Garrowby Hall, where Joseph Wordsworth senior was the estate bailiff, and where he remained until at least 1911. The estate was owned then, and now, by the Wood family, viscounts (now earls) Halifax.
Joseph Wordsworth junior attended Archbishop Holgate’s School in York, and then went on to Durham University where he matriculated in the Newcastle Division in 1913 to study for a B.A. (Mathematics Honours) degree at Hatfield Hall. His academic career was curtailed by the war, and his pass in the General Bible Paper (part II) at Easter in 1915 is the last academic record of his presence at the university. Wordsworth was an active figure in his year, serving as president of Hatfield Hall’s choral society and on the committee of its Debating Society; he was also editor of the university’s Journal (June 1915 issue). He was also a member of the Officers’ Training Corps, and it was from the rank of a cadet corporal in 8 Durham Light Infantry T.F. (Durham O.T.C. senior division) that Wordsworth was promoted to second lieutenant on 23 July 1915.
Having served two years with 8 D.L.I., from 1916 in France, Wordsworth was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer on 13 February 1917. Serving with 59 Squadron, flying an R.E. 8 (no. A115), Wordsworth and pilot Second Lieutenant R.W.M. Davies were shot down and killed behind the German lines just to the east of Arras near Roeux on 6 April 1917 by Lieutenant Benert of Jagdstaffel 2. Reported missing, his death was not confirmed until May. Second Lieutenant Joseph Wordsworth is buried at Bois-Carré British Cemetery at Thelus. His sacrifice is commemorated on a plaque in the chapel at Hatfield College.