Three men with a local connection lost their lives on 12th October 1918 whilst on active service – Private George Thomas Oakes, Horse Transport and Supply, Army Service Corps; Private Percy Poole, 281st Company, Machine Gun Corps; and Corporal Frederick George Wicketts, 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment.
George Thomas Oakes was born in Solihull on 20th March 1889 and was registered as Thomas George Oakes. He was baptised on 9th June 1889 in his mother’s home parish of Stretton on Dunsmore. He was the eldest of eight children, and one of four brothers to serve in the war. His younger brother, Arthur Edward Oakes, was killed in 1916.
The family lived in Mill Lane, Solihull from at least 1898 until 1910. His mother, Mary, died in 1906, leaving her husband, Frank, widowed and with eight children aged between two and 16. Frank, a bricklayer, remarried in 1910 and set up home in New Road, Solihull with his second wife, Elizabeth, and five of the children from his first marriage.
George Thomas Oakes married Laura Cole in Coventry in 1915 and it seems they set up home in the city. According to the City of Coventry Roll of the Fallen, George was a butcher and enlisted in September 1916. The couple’s only child, Stanley George Oakes (1916-1978) was about eight months old when his father went to war.
George is buried at Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, France and is commemorated locally on Solihull war memorial.
Percy Poole was born in Hampton-in-Arden in 1893 and was the second of the ten children (six sons, four daughters) of parents John (a blacksmith) and Alice (née Duggan) who had married in Hockley in 1891. The couple set up home in Hampton, where all of their children were born. One of the children – Percy’s twin brother, Harvey (1893-1894), died before he was a year old.
Percy’s mother, Alice died in 1910, aged 42. At the time of the 1939 Register, John was living at The Poplars, Fentham Road, Hampton-in-Arden with three of his children – Harold John (1892-1940), Alice May (1895-1961), and Violet Evelyn (1901-1988).
One of Percy’s younger brothers, Leo Abraham (1897-1981), is known to have served in the First World War as a Private with the South Staffordshire Regiment. The Coventry Herald of 12th September 1914 lists Leo as being one of 23 old boys from the George Fentham School serving with His Majesty’s Forces. In 1917, Leo was posted missing believed killed, although news then came that he was a Prisoner of War in Germany. By July 1918, six men from Hampton were POWs and a local fund was created to ensure that the men were sent regular parcels of provisions. Having been a prisoner for 23 months, Private Leo Poole returned to Hampton-in-Arden in February 1919.
We don’t know when Percy enlisted in the Army, but he didn’t see any overseas service before 1916. He was initially posted to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment before being transferred to the Machine Gun Corps.
The Coventry Herald of 11th January 1919 reported that Percy Poole had died of pneumonia whilst serving in India. He is buried in Mhow New Cemetery, India and is commemorated locally on Hampton-in-Arden war memorial.
Frederick George Wicketts was born in 1892 and was the third of the eight children of parents, Walter James Wicketts and Hannah Perry who had married in 1888. They initially set up home in Hall Green before moving to Shirley c. 1890. Frederick was the eldest of the couple’s three sons. Two of the children – Florence Ethel (1887-1889) and Frank (born and died 1901) – died as infants.
Frederick became a nurseryman, as was his father, and it seemed that he was working for a Mr Chattock 1909/1910. Mr Chattock gave him a character reference when Frederick joined the Army Reserve in October 1910, describing him as “not over fond of work.” At the time of enlistment, Frederick gave his address as Streets Brook, Warwickshire. His next of kin was his father, Walter, living at Stratford Road, Shirley. it appears that Frederick was in the Reserves until 1911.
With the outbreak of war, he volunteered for active service and enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment in September 1915, giving his occupation as a gardener. He was posted to France in May 1916 but invalided to England in November 1916 suffering from paratyphoid. After convalescence and leave, he returned to France in March 1917. Before returning to France, he married Jessie Louise Ashmore (1895-1980). She remarried after Frederick’s death, marrying Thomas Griffiths in 1919.
Frederick’s service record indicates that he was initially listed as wounded in action on 12th October, before this was changed to killed in action. He is buried at Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension, France, and is commemorated locally on Shirley war memorial.
Frederick’s only surviving brother, Ernest David (1898-1981) served in the First World War as a Private in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.
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