Ernest Oakes


Ernest was the younger brother of Harry, who died in July 1916 of wounds received whilst serving in the frontline near the village of Carnoy and is also commemorated on the Hoxne War Memorial.

Ernest enlisted in Ipswich, the date of his enlistment is unknown. We do not know which Suffolk Regiment Battalion he was drafted into though his original service number was 3871 but then changed at some point to 320692. At the time of writing it is not known if this change was the result of Ernest being transferred to the Duke of York Loyal Suffolk Hussars.

Originally formed as a volunteer cavalry Regiment in 1793 the Hussars had fought most recently in the Second Boer War and was reformed in 1908 as part of the Territorial Force as the Duke of Yorks Own Loyal Suffolk Hussars with Squadrons based in Beccles, Cambridge, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. In 1914 The Regiment consisted as the 1/1st and 2/2nd Suffolk Yeomanry with the 3/3rd being form in 1915. Essentially the 2/2nd and 3/3rd were training Battalions and tasked with supplying drafts to 1/1st. The 2/2nd ended the war in Ireland whilst the 3/3rd was disbanded in early 1917.

The 1/1st were not destined for France, in September 1915 they were dismounted (as were many Yeomanry Regiments) and sent in the SS Olympic (sister ship to the Titanic) to Gallipoli. Landing at Anzac Cove in October, alongside the Norfolk Yeomanry, and now under the command of the 54th (East Anglian) Division the Battalion was moved into the frontline. The Gallipoli campaign, started in April 1915, had run its course by the time the Suffolk Yeomanry arrived and although in the front line most of the Battalions casualties resulted from illness, in the main dysentery and frostbite. On the 14th December the Battalion was evacuated to the Greek Island of Mudros and after a short stay sent to Egypt.

It is quite probable that Ernest was part of a draft to replace the losses suffered by the Battalion at Gallipoli. To date the war in Egypt, as far as the British were concerned, had been largely static with the British on the defensive content to prevent the Ottoman Empire from taking control of the Suez Canal. After training the Battalion was moved into the frontline between El Sahatt and El Ferdan in the Sinai Peninsula where it became part of the 74th (Yeomanry) Division and underwent, no doubt with a degree of irritation, a name change to the 15TH (Yeomanry) Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment.

The Battalion, as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, fought in second Battle of Gaza between 17th and 19th April 1917 which had resulted in a defeat. This brought about a change in the British Command and the appointment of Field Marshall Allenby in June 1917. Having reorganised his force Allenby prepared an offensive to assault the Turkish defences, first the Gaza-Beersheba line and then the Jaffa-Jerusalem Line. The third Battle of Gaza took place between the 31st October and 7th November and pivotal to its success was the capture of Beersheba which was carried out using subterfuge as well as blunt force. Allenby subsequently wrote "The Turks as Beersheba were undoubtedly taken completely by surprise, a surprise from which the dash of London Troops and Yeomanry, finely supported by their artillery, never gave them time to recover". During the course of the battle Ernest was wounded and he subsequently died on the 15th November 1917. He is buried in Beersheba War Cemetery. The Register of Soldiers effects lists Ernest's worldly wealth as £6.4s.8d and in August 1919 his dependants received a war gratuity of £8.10s.0d.