Harry Oakes


Harry Charles Oakes was born in 1892 in Shimpling, a small village in Norfolk some four miles east of Diss and about two miles from Dickleburgh where his father, who was also called Charles, had been born. The Hoxne connection comes from Harry's mother, Ada, who as a Rowe, was a member of a long established Hoxne family.

From the census records between 1891 and 1911 the family does not seem to have lived in Hoxne. In 1891 they lived in Shimpling where Charles was employed as an agricultural labourer. By 1901 the family had moved the short distance to Tivetshall Road, Moulton where Charles was a yardman but by 1911 they had moved closer to Hoxne and were domiciled in Watering Road, Denham where both Charles, together with his eldest son, William, were recorded as horse men on a farm whilst Harry and his youngest brother, Ernest, were recorded as agricultural labourers.

Harry enlisted into the Suffolk Regiment in October 1915 and was drafted, after basic training, into the 2nd Battalion. As Regular Army Battalion, the 2nd had been based at the Curragh in Ireland and on the outbreak of hostilities the Battalion was quickly transferred, via England to France, landing at Le Havre on the 14th August. Just as quickly they were involved in the retreat from Mons and were involved in the rearguard action at Le Cateau where their losses were so great that by time the battalion was withdrawn to St Quentin in the late afternoon of Thursday 27th August they could only muster 3 officers and 111 other ranks from a total of 998 that left the Curragh in early August. Losses continued through the winter operations during 1914 and 1915 and in the same month that Harry enlisted the battalion was transferred to the 76th Brigade of the 3rd Division.

It is not known when Harry's draft reached the battalion but the losses sustained by the 2nd were so severe, particularly on the 22nd January 1916 when a German mine was exploded under the trenches occupied by the battalion killing, wounding or burying alive over 100 men, that the War Diary records reinforcements being constantly received: February; 31 other ranks, March; 20 other ranks; April; 73, May 139 and 18 in June which brought the battalion up to strength.

Although not involved in the initial attack on the 1st July the Battalion moved into the trenches in front the village of Carnoy on the 10th July and whilst they were not involved in any attacks casualties soon mounted. Between their arrival and their relief on the 25th July they suffered 15 dead and a further 45 wounded, it is probable that Harry Oakes was one of the wounded during this period. Evacuated to the Regimental Aid Post then a casualty clearing station, Harry was admitted to one of the Base Hospitals in Rouen some 100 miles from the front. His wounds were clearly serious as he died on the 22nd July at No3 Stationary Hospital and was subsequently buried at the St Server Cemetery in Rouen. Harry's "Army Register of Soldiers Effects" reveal that he left £3.15.8 which was paid to his father on the 31st October 1916 and later a further £3.0.0 war gratuity was paid in October 1919.