Great uncle won a war medal for bravery
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