Private 8529 Thomas Oakley

Oakley Thomas 96 427x600

Killed in Action on Wednesday, 10th March 1915, age 21.
Commemorated on Panel 17 and 18 of Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

1st Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 24th Brigade of 8th Division.

Son of Mr and Mrs Benjamin Oakley, of 73 Furnace Parade, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Dudley, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 5th November 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1560031/

Genealogical Data

Marriage of Benjamin Oakley and Pamela Share registered March quarter 1888 in Dudley.

1891 Census
37 Union Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Benjamin Oakley (25, Iron Dresser, Foundry, born Sedgley), his wife Pamela (24, Wife, born Sedgley), and their only child William (1, born Tipton).

1901 Census
4 Park Lane West, Tipton, Staffs.
Benjamin Oakley (35, Iron Pump Dresser, born Coseley), his wife Pamela (34, born Gnosall), and their 7 children: William (11, born Tipton), Joshua (10, born Tipton), Benjamin (9, born Tipton), Thomas (8, born Tipton), Pamela (5, born Tipton), Joseph (3, born Tipton), Arthur (1, born Tipton).

1911 Census
78 Furnace Parade, Tipton, Staffs.
Benjamin Oakley (45, Iron Dresser) Pamela Oakley (34, born Tipton), and 10 of their surviving 11 children of 13: Joshua (20, Canal Boatman, born Tipton), Benjamin (19, Canal Boatman, born Tipton), Thomas (17, General Labourer, born Tipton), Pamela (15, born Tipton), Joseph (14, born Tipton), Arthur (11, School, born Tipton), Frank (9, School, born Tipton), Samuel (5, School, born Tipton), Nellie (3, born Tipton), and Leonard (9 months, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Thomas Oakley attested for a term of 6 years as Private 8529 in the 6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment on 18th October 1911. He was 17 years and 9 months old, 5ft 3¾ inches tall with a 34-inch chest, and weighed 108 pounds (8 stones). His physical development was recorded as fair, but he was noted to be 2lbs underweight, but "will develop". He had grey eyes, brown hair, his religion was recorded as Baptist, and his occupation Labourer in Ironworks. On the 19th October he was passed fit, and his attestation approved on 20th October.
He served at Annual Camps in 1911, 1912, 1913, but missed the 1914 camp being unfit. Thomas was mobilised on 8th August 1914, going to France on 5th November 1914.

Thomas had three brothers who also served in the army, William and Joshua survived but Benjamin also died.
Survived: William - 11th Bn., Worcestershire Regiment, and Joshua - 6th Bn., South Staffs Regiment
Died of Wounds: Benjamin - 6th Bn., Worcestershire Regiment
Killed in Action: Thomas - 1st Bn., Worcestershire Regiment

Thomas had written a 'Soldier's Will' in his paybook dated 1st March 1915, just 9 days before his death. He wrote: “In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to may father who is Mr Ben Oakley, 73 Furnace Parade, Tipton, Staffordshire. Signed Tom Oakley, No 8529, 1st Worcestershire Regiment”.

After Thomas's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £7/0/6d (7 pounds and 6 pence); this was paid to his father and sole legatee, Benjamin, in August 1915. His War Gratuity was £3/0/0d (3 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in June 1919. Thomas had been a Special Reservist since 1911, at the outbreak of war he was immediately called up and attached to the 1st Worcesters.

Thomas's pension was a little complicated as there were 2 claims. The first claimant for a Dependant’s Pension was Miss Alice Maud Millington of 36 Queen Street, Princes End, Tipton who was described as his “Unmarried Wife”. The second claimant for a Dependant’s Pension was his mother, Mrs Pamela Oakley. The latter, his mother's claim, seems to have been rejected.

A pension of 3/0d (3 shillings) per week was awarded to Alice Millington, effective from 21st June 1916, this was increased to 5/0d (5 shillings) per week from 4th April 1917. It is likely that this pension was not for herself, but her role as “Guardian of illegitimate child” therefore accepting that Thomas was the father. The child is likely to have been Gladys Lilian Millington whose birth was registered in June quarter 1913 in Dudley. Alice was herself jut 16 years old at the time, and went on the marry Arthur L. Gould in 1916.

Action resulting in his death

The Battle of Neuve Chapelle raged from the 10th to 13th March 1915; it was intended to eliminate a German salient into the British lines, to break through their defensive lines and capture Aubers Ridge. This was originally planned to be in combination with a French attack on Vimy Ridge, but this was not carried out due to their resource constraints.

The Worcesters were to have attacked at 9.30am on 10th March as the second wave of 24th Brigade, but this was not possible because of delays on their left in clearing the 'Moated Grange'. At 2.00pm they temporarily assisted the 23rd Brigade on their left and suffered a number of casualties, and then at 4.30pm advanced eastwards until they met resistance near Piétre, and entrenched for the night. The 25th Brigade on the right had successfully captured Neuve Chapelle village by 8.30am, and, had communication allowed, this may have been the key to a more general breakthrough.

Twenty Worcesters men had died on the opening day, including Thomas Oakley. The records show that his body was buried one mile north-west of Neuve Chapelle which suggests that he fell during the afternoon advance towards Piétre. His grave was subsequently lost, and he is today commemorated on the Le Touret memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 10th April 1915
Mr and Mrs William Share, of 188 Bloomfield Road have eleven grandsons and six nephews in the Army. Amongst them is Private Thomas Oakley, of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, whose death has just been reported. He was employed at Messrs Lee, Howl & Co. He was 21 years of age, and was in the Special Reserve, being called up at the commencement of the war. He had been in the trenches since October 11th, and had gone through several stirring engagements. A letter was received by his relatives on Monday stating that he was killed on March 10th at Neuve Chapelle. He was the youngest of four brothers now serving, they being the sons of Mr and Mrs Benjamin Oakley, of 73 Furnace Parade, Tipton, and nephews of Councillor T. Chalstrey.

Tipton Herald 10th April 1915
Pte. Tom Oakley, aged 21, of the 1st Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment, who was in the Special Reserve, and was called up at the commencement of the war (as mentioned elsewhere) has been killed in the great battle of Neuve Chapelle. He was the youngest of four brothers now serving their King and Country, and the son of Mr and Mrs Benjamin Oakley, of Furnace Parade, Tipton, and a nephew of Councillor T. Chalstrey, of Tipton, who has quite a large number of relatives in the colours, including 15 nephews. The deceased went to the front in October last, and went through each battle in La Bassée.

Tipton Herald 29th January 1916
PRIVATE WILL OAKLEY Writing to Tipton relatives, Private William Oakley, of a Worcestershire battalion, now in Salonika, says:- " I am going on first rate given the circumstances, because it is all hard work out here. It was a picnic out in France. For Xmas dinner we made things as bright and merry as possible on bully beef and biscuits and trench digging. I had the pleasure of meeting a chap from where I was born. We were just finishing a new fire trench, and when leaving the dug-out I went to the front of the trench, and about 30 yards out I saw some men repairing barbed wire entanglements, so I shouted 'Hello, wear dun yow come from mate?' and when he says 'Tipton' I knew the voice well; it was Joe Hickman, and the first man I have met in 16 months that I knew well. I was very pleased to meet him, I can tell you." Private Oakley proceeds to say that the end of this titanic struggle will be seen over in the direction of the Balkans, and that the war is practically finished in France. Private Will Oakley is a brother of the late Private Thomas Oakley of Furnace Parade, who was killed at Neuve Chapelle on March 10th last, and also a brother of Private Benjamin Oakley, killed at Hill 60 on the 7th June 1916. Another brother (Joshua) is serving with the 6th South Staffs.

Tipton Herald 11th March 1916
In Memoriam
In loving memory of our dear nephew Thomas Oakley, killed in action at Neuve Chapelle 10th March 1915. Fondly remembered by his Uncle and Aunt (Mr and Mrs T. Chalstrey, Tipton).

Tipton Herald 3rd June 1916
Writing to his Uncle (Councillor T. Chalstrey) from Salonika, Private William Oakley of Furnace Parade, says:- "Turkey and Bulgaria are getting 'fed up' with it, and will claim a separate peace soon, no doubt. This year should see the finish, but many thousands will perish before victory is in view. I would rather be in the thick of it than do the navvying which we are now engaged on. Two days ago they raided at 4.30am and it was very exciting. The air seemed to be full of bombs and shells. In the darkness the sky was quite lighted up by the bursting shells. One loud explosion seemed to be qute in the midst of us, and nearly blew me down with the concussion, but it was a bomb which had dropped on a trench magazine, and the sight which followed I shall never forget. We fetched four of the planes down. We have moved nearer Salonica and are under canvas. Several poor chaps were blown to pieces, and many Greeks suffered, several families being wiped out."
Two of the writer's brothers have been killed in France.