Great un­cle won a war medal for brav­ery

Hinckley Times - - NEWS -

AS the cen­te­nary of the end of the First World War ap­proaches one man re­search­ing his fam­ily his­tory stum­bled on the story of a rel­a­tive from Hinck­ley killed in the First World War.

Paul Oakes was look­ing for in­for­ma­tion about his fa­ther when he came across records of his great un­cle Joseph Henry Oakes, win­ner of a Distin­guished Ser­vice Medal.

Mr Oakes said: “I had re­cently de­cided to look into my fa­ther’s (Joseph Oakes) ser­vice record dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. On re­search at the lo­cal mil­i­tary records I dis­cov­ered that there are two

Joseph Henry Oakes, one be­ing my fa­ther and then an­other who served in the first world war. It was to my sur­prise that Joseph Henry Oakes se­nior was my great un­cle! “

Mr Oakes dis­cov­ered that his great un­cle moved to Hinck­ley at the age of 14 where he worked as a heel pin­ner at J Har­ris and Co in Trin­ity Lane.

He en­listed in 1914 not long after the war had be­gun de­spite be­ing only 17 and just 5ft 3in tall. He trained at Glen Parva and at Per­ham Down Camp be­fore be­com­ing a Lewis Gun­ner and be­ing sent to the western front.

Mr Oakes said: “One bat­tle in par­tic­u­lar in March 1915 noted that Joseph ‘dis­played great courage and de­vo­tion to duty. He con­tin­ued to use his Lewis gun against the en­emy counter at­tack al­though he was se­ri­ously wounded.

“By his courage and en­durance he con­trib­uted to the re­pulses of the en­emy at­tack. When the at­tack was fi­nally beaten off, he with­drew his team in­tact, and set a splen­did ex­am­ple to his men.

“It was for this brav­ery that Joseph was later awarded the Distin­guished Con­duct Medal.”

In May 1918, just sixth months be­fore Armistice Day he was re­ported miss­ing. Hopes were raised by re­ports that he was a pris­oner of war but soon dashed again.

Mr Oakes said: “He had orig­i­nally been posted as miss­ing on 27th May 1918. How­ever Joseph was not so lucky as to have been taken as a POW, as later re­vealed in a let­ter from the War Of­fice in June 1919 to the Of­fi­cer in Charge of In­fantry Records at Lich­field, which states that an eye wit­ness, Pri­vate C Starmer, a repa­tri­ated Pris­oner of War, of Rose Cot­tages, Croft Road, Cosby, re­ported that Lance Cor­po­ral Oakes was shot shortly after cap­ture.

“In con­junc­tion with the of­fi­cial Ger­man list D.33/1 that Lance Cor­po­ral Oakes was buried on 7th June 1918 at Courcy, it was of­fi­cially ac­cepted that this was the cause of death.

“Joseph is now re­mem­bered with hon­our at the Sois­sons Me­mo­rial in France and at the Hinck­ley Me­mo­rial in Ar­gents Mead.”

Joseph Henry Oakes from Hinck­ley with un­known woman

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