Joseph was a son of James and Elizabeth Donnelly. His birth was registered at Armidale NSW in 1886. He lived at Howell, was married and working as a Labourer when he enlisted in Sydney in August 1914.
Joseph joined the 1st Divisional Train as a Driver and sailed from Australia for Egypt on HMAT A19 Afric in October 1914. During 1915 he became ill and was admitted to hospital in Malta for treatment. His unit was sent to France in April 1916. Joseph returned to Australia and was medically discharged in March 1919. He died in 1945 at Orange NSW.
Joseph's name is recorded on the Howell Public School Roll of Honour.