ANTHONY OATES 1888 – 1916

 446121 Private Anthony Oates, 31st Battalion, the Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment) was killed in action 15 September 1916 and is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, France.[1] He was 28 years old and is commemorated Hamsterley War Memorial, County Durham.

Family Details [2]

 Anthony was born 21 February 1888 at Hamsterley, County Durham to Thomas and Mary Oates.  There were 2 children, both born at Hamsterley:

  • Lucina bc.1884
  • Anthony bc.1888

In 1901, 46 year old Thomas worked as a coal miner (hewer) and the family lived at Hamsterley.

In 1913, an Anthony Oates married Daisy May Grace at Ware, Hertfordshire.[3] 8 April 1913:  an Anthony and Daisy Oates were aboard “S.S. Cymric” sailing from Liverpool headed for Portland, Maine and Boston, USA, bound for Calgary, Alberta., Canada. [4]  In 1913, Anthony Oates lived at 2118 7th Avenue NW, Calgary and worked as a labourer for the City.[5] In 1914, he lived at 2135 7th Avenue NW and was still employed by the City. [6] In 1915, his address was 216-111/2 Street NW and he was employed as a teamster.[7]  In 1915, his home address was recorded as 2209 7th Avenue NW but then he was on active service.[8]  In 1916, 28 year old Anthony Oates, his 30 year old wife Daisy and their 2 year old daughter Frances lived at 311 11½ Street NW, Calgary East. This address is located in the Hillhurst district of Calgary.  Anthony worked as a teamster for the City.    Daisy is recorded as “English” and that they both emigrated in 1912 and that Frances was born in Alberta. [9]

After Anthony’s death, Daisy May Oates returned to England and lived at “Dunholme”, Hamsterley, Witton-le-Wear, Co. Durham and by July 1920 at 13 Wear Terrace, Witton-le-Wear.[10]  She received a War Service Gratuity.  [11]

Military Details [12]

26 April 1915:  Anthony Oates attested and was posted to the 56th (Calgary) Battalion for the duration of the war.  He was 27 years and 3 months of age, 5’9” tall and weighed 160lbs.  His complexion was “fair”, his eyes “blue” and hair “brown” with no distinguishing marks.  He was an Anglican.[13]  He was given the regimental number 446121.

Private A. Oates movement was as follows:[14]

23 March 1916:  Private Anthony Oates departed Halifax, Canada aboard “SS Baltic”.

11 April 1916:  arrived in England

28 June 1916:  posted to the Canadian Base

12 July 1916:  left base, embarked for France

14 July 1916: arrived at unit, the 31st Battalion.

The 31st Canadian Infantry Battalion [15]

November 1914:  The 31st Canadian Infantry Battalion was formed under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel A.H. Bell under authorisation published in General Order 36 of 15 March 1915.  The battalion was mobilized in Calgary and recruited in Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Wetaskiwin, Youngstown, Claresholm and Pincher Creek.  The battalion embarked at Quebec on 17 May 1915 aboard “Carpathia”, disembarking in England on 28 May 1915.  Its strength was 37 officers and 1122 other ranks.

18 September 1915:  The battalion arrived in France as part of the 2nd Canadian Division, 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade.  It was later reinforced by the 21st Reserve Battalion.  The 6th Canadian Brigade consisted:

  • 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion Canadian Infantry
  • 28th (North West) Battalion Canadian Infantry
  • 29th (Vancouver) Battalion Canadian Infantry
  • 31st (Alberta) Battalion Canadian Infantry

Under the command of Major-General R.E.W. Turner, the troops spent a long and bitterly cold winter in a Belgian sector of the front between Ploegsteert Wood and St. Eloi, south of Ypres and were involved in the following operations:

  • 27 March – 16 April 1916: actions of the St. Eloi Craters
  • 2 – 13 June 1916: Battle of Mount Sorrel

The Division moved south to the Somme and took part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15 – 22 September 1916 during which Private Anthony Oates was killed. The Division then saw service at Passchendaele (1917), the Battle of Amiens (1918) Droqourt-Queant Switch, Valenciennes, Mons and the occupation the Rhine.

446121 Private Anthony Oates was killed in action 15 September 1916, about 2 months after joining his battalion, on the opening day of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916 [16]

 The Battle of the Somme was viewed as a breakthrough battle, as a means of getting through the formidable German trench lines and into a war of movement and decision.  Political considerations and the demands of the French High Command influenced the timing of the battle.  They demanded British diversionary action to occupy the German Army to relieve the hard pressed French troops at Verdun, to the south.

General Sir Douglas Haig, appointed Commander-in-Chief in December 1915, was responsible for the overall conduct of British Army operations in France and Belgium.  This action was to be the British Army’s first major offensive on the Western Front in 1916 and it was entrusted to General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army to deliver the resounding victory.  The British Army included thousands of citizen volunteers, keen to take part in what was expected to be a great victory.

The main line of assault ran nearly 14 miles from Maricourt in the south to Serre to the north, with a diversionary attack at Gommecourt 2 miles further to the north.  The first objective was to establish a new advanced line on the Montauban to Pozieres Ridge.

1 July 1916:  the first day was preceded by a week-long artillery bombardment of the German positions.  Just prior to zero-hour, the storm of British shells increased and merged with huge mine explosions to herald the infantry attack.  At 7.30am on a clear midsummer’s morning the British Infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines at a slow steady pace over the grassy expanse of a No Man’s Land.  They were met with a hail of machine gun fire and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders.  Accurate German artillery barrages smashed into the infantry in No Man’s Land and the crowded assembly trenches – the British suffered enormous casualties:

  • Officers killed 993
  • Other Ranks killed: 18,247
  • Total Killed: 19,240
  • Total casualties (killed, wounded and missing): 57,470

In popular imagination, the “Battle of the Somme” has become a byword for military disaster.  In the calamitous opening 24 hours the British Army suffered its highest number of casualties in a single day.  The loss of great numbers of men from the same towns and villages had a profound impact on those at home. The first day was an abject failure.  The following weeks and months of conflict assumed the nature of wearing-down warfare, a war of attrition, by the end of which both the attackers and defenders were totally exhausted.

The Battle of the Somme can be broken down into 12 offensive operations:

  • Albert: 1 – 13 July
  • Bazantin Ridge: 14 – 17 July
  • Delville Wood: 15 July – 13 September
  • Pozieres Ridge: 15 July – 3 September
  • Guillemont: 23 July – 3 September
  • Ginchy: 9 September
  • Flers-Courcelette: 15 – 22 September
  • Morval: 25 – 28 September
  • Thiepval: 25 – 28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1 – 18 October
  • Ancre Heights: 1 October – 11 November
  • Ancre: 13 – 18 November

Adverse weather conditions, the autumn rains and early winter sleet and snow turned the battlefield into morass of mud.  Such intolerable physical conditions helped bring to an end Allied offensive operations after four and a half months of slaughter.  The fighting brought no significant breakthrough.  Territorial gain was a strip of land approximately 20 miles wide by 6 miles deep. In terms of casualties, the cost was enormous – British and Commonwealth forces were calculated to have 419,654 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) of which some 131,000 were dead.  French casualties amounted to 204,253.  German casualties were estimated between 450,000 to 600,000. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette: an overview

15 September:  The Battle of Flers-Courcelette commenced and is notable for the introduction of tanks – this offensive employed 12 Divisions and 49 tanks.  They proved notoriously unreliable – only 15 rolled onto No Man’s Land at the start of the attack.  The BEF and Canadian Corps made initial gains of some 2 kilometres within the first 3 days including the capture of the ruined villages of Martinpuich, Flers and Courcelette and much of the sought after High Wood.  However a combination of poor weather and extensive German reinforcements halted the advance and the Allies again suffered high casualties.  22 September:  The attack was called off.

25 – 27 September:  Haig renewed attacks in this area – the Battle of Morval and the Battle of Thiepval Ridge.  Advances were limited but positions were consolidated:

“The pattern of the fighting on the Somme had now been clearly established.  It was fundamentally a battle of artillery.  The British could not advance without it: the Germans could not defend without it.  The roar of guns was unceasing.  It could grind away and erode the courage of all but the bravest.”   [17]

31st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force [18]

15 September:  the Canadian Corps (1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions) occupied positions to the north of the offensive line, opposite the German positions at Thiepval, Mouquet Farm and Martinpuich.  The 6th Canadian Brigade was to the north of Pozieres.  The following account provides some detail of action:

“Mouquet Farm

 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divs. of the Canadian Corps were in action near here. 8 Bde of the 3rd Canadian Div held the frontline south of Mouquet Farm. 7 Bde was in reserve and it was this brigade that was brought up for the attack at 6pm from Sugar Trench. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry took McDonnell Trench and the eastern part of Fabeck Graben. You’ll recall that this was the German trench running east from Mouquet Farm to Courcelette. At 6.30pm the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles advanced and pushed westwards along Fabeck Graben. At 8.15pm 49th Edmonton Bn. took the Chalk Pit and reinforced the two battalions in the old German line.

2nd Canadian Div was astride the Bapaume Road east of Pozieres. The attack here went in at dawn supported by six tanks. 4 Bde attacked on the right flank with 18th (West Ontario) Bn, 20th (Central Ontario)Bn and 21st (Central Ontario) Bn. 6 Bde was on the left with 27th (City of Winnipeg), 28th (North West) Bn and 31st (Alberta) Bn.

4 Bde’s objective was the Sugar Factory roughly half way from Pozieres to Courcelette. The front line was cleared in 15 minutes and by 7am Factory Lane trench was reached and the 20th Bn cleared the Factory.

6 Bde reached its objective by 7.30 am. 28th Bn took a strongpoint on the Ovillers Courcelette track and then moved up McDonnell Trench. They moved beyond Gunpit Trench and established MG posts on the sunken road running from Courcelette to Martinpuich.

The six tanks were outpaced by the infantry advance. Of the three supporting 4 Bde, one ditched before crossing the Canadian line and the other two reached the Sugar Factory to find it already taken. In 6 Bde all three tanks broke down in McDonnell Trench.

By 9.30am, 6 Bde had inked with 15th Div on its right flank and a German counter attack was repelled.

At 6.15 pm, 5 Bde attacked Courcelette with 22nd (Canadian Francais) and 25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) Bns. The village fell easily.”

Private Anthony Oates served in “A” Company and the 31st Battalion War Diary provides the following report of operations: [19]

“At 9-30 p.m. on the night of the 14th/15th, the Battalion Headquarters moved to dug-out, shared with 28th Battalion on CENTRE WAY, near Point 77, the remainder of the Battalion following;- A and B Companies taking their positions of assembly with the 27th Battalion and three  platoons of “C” Company with the 28th Battalion.  The remaining five platoons and Battalion Sections were placed for the night in the TRANWAY TRENCH.

At 3.00 p.m. the Battalion Machine Gun Officer (Lieut. P.M. Holdon) moved out with his section and placed his four Colt Guns in positions, in rear of our front line, from which they would be able to move up and occupy it as soon the advance started.

 The zero hour was fixed at 6.20 a.m. on the 15th inst., and at exactly this time the first wave was seen to go over our parapet, the remainder following as arranged.

 As my Battalion was very much scattered, I can only give an intelligible account by taking the various parties in detail.

 A Company (attached to 27th Battalion)

Three Platoons of this Company (Mopping-up Party) formed the 2nd Intermediate wave, following the first wave of the attached in at a distance of ten yards. The fourth platoon acting as Carrying Party and following the Reserve Company. The objective of this Company was the GERMAN FRONT LINE, where it was to mop-up and consolidate. This was carried out, a new trench being dug between 30 and 40 yards in front of the OLD GERMAN FRONT LINE. As Major H.M. Splane, the Officer Commanding Company was killed and all Company Officer either killed or wounded, very early in the operations, the Command of the Company fell to Company Sergeant Major G. LAWSON, who carried out the work in a highly creditable manner.

 B. Company (attached to 27th Battalion)

3 Platoons, 2nd Intermediate Wave (Mopping-up Party) following first wave at a distance of thirty yards, one platoon carrying party. The objective of this Company was the SUNKEN ROAD.  Lieut. W.D. Friend, the only unwounded surviving Officer of the Company reports as follows:-

“On reaching SUNKEN ROAD we found an enemy communication trench running along the West Bank. No enemy were to be found in the trench or on the road. We then collected all available tools and commenced to make the trench habitable, by cleaning out the debris caused by artillery fire. When this was completed we extended the trench about fifty yards in the direction of COURCELETTE. We then dug a trench across the road, forming a block which gave us command of the road in the event of enemy counter attack. This work was completed about 10.00 a.m. in spite of heavy enemy artillery fire and active sniping. About 11.00 a.m. the Officer Commanding Company was killed by H.E.   I then took Command of the Company. The enemy continued to bombard us heavily with H.E. shrapnel, and several times we were compelled to leave the trench and occupy shell-holes where the bombardment was not so heavy. The bombardment continued until we were ordered to evacuate the trench at 5.30 a.m. on the 16th.

Conduct and moral of the whole of the men was excellent”.

 C Company (less one platoon) attached to 28th

This Company was detailed to furnish two platoons, 1st intermediate wave (Mopping-up Party) and one platoon carrying party.

 The Company Commander Lieut. E.F. Pinkham being killed, and the other Officers of the Company killed or wounded early in the day, this Company was handled by Company Sergeant Major J. S. Park, who reports as follows:-

“On arriving an objective I found I was in sole charge and sent in report, timed 8-15 a.m. I was immediately on arrival, set to work on consolidation about fifty yards in front of captured Front Line with remaining men of No. 11 Platoon I did not run across remainder, 9 and 10 Platoons until sometime later, and found they were mixed up along further objective line with 28 Battalion. On interviewing  Capt. Bradin of 28th Battalion, he asked that remainder  of 9 and 10 Platoons be left with him, owing to extra work ‘digging in’ in new front line required, and the

possibility of counter attack. The enemy artillery were fairly quiet at this period and work of consolidation we pushed forward. After working about four hours the enemy began shelling our positions we were digging and I withdrew to German Communication Trench running parallel SUNKEN ROAD flank and from which we were running branch to right. About 5.00 a.m. Lieut. H. Norris D Company ordered that “C” Company be withdrawn to original Junction Off Trench and I gave orders accordingly.  At this time the P.P.C.L.I. and 42nd Battalion were passing through trenches to effect a further attack on enemy trenches and the task of withdrawal was a very difficult one as also enemy were putting up a continuous and heavy barrage over ground to be traversed.  This was accomplished however without casualties and we remained in Jumping Off Trench until relieved.

Our wounded were brought from shell holes to this trench during night and were taken out thus a.m. by Stretcher Bearing Parties.

 2 Platoons, D Company, detailed to follow up 27th Battalion and dig support trench.

Lieut. H. Norris, in charge of this party, reports as follows:

“I have the honour to report that at 6.15 a.m. on 15th instant I ____ TAMWAY TRENCH and proceeded to GERMAN FRONT LINE. Owing to congestion in YARRA BEND, it was 6.45 a.m. before I entered ‘No-man’s land’ with my command, consisting of two Officers and 42 other ranks.  About twenty yards in front of enemy trench I observed a party of 27th Battalion without Officers. I took Command and rushed trench which had offered a stubborn resistance. I went on with my party and stragglers from various units, to the final objective and, on satisfying myself that we held the position strongly, I withdrew party and proceeded to perform the task allotted, that of digging a support trench from R.35.a.6.3 to R.35.b.3.2. At about 10.00 a.m. I was informed that Major H.M. Splane, Lieut. E.F. Pinkham and Lieut. E.T. Toole had been killed, and I there-upon took command of all troops in sight. Notwithstanding an incessant enemy bombardment which lasted all day, it was obvious that we were masters of the situation. At about 2.00 p.m. I sent a patrol of 20 other ranks and a Lewis gun to reinforce three similar patrols holding a line at S.E. corner of COURCELETTE. I also dispatched a party of ten other ranks to supplement casualties in gun crews of B Company. I got in touch with B Company and learned that, in spite of heavy shelling, they firmly holding their position on SUNKEN ROAD. Acting on orders received, I withdrew all 31st troops from captured enemy front line trench to Jumping Off Trench in our original front line and was reinforced by a remnant of B. Coy. at about 4.00 a.m. this day.  I left trench about 5.15 a.m. and proceeded as ordered to X.15 area leaving behind a strong party to assist wounded under the direction of Lieut. H.P. Morgan.”   

The results of the engagement are as follows:[20]

“The 4th and 6th Canadian Brigades held onto their positions perched along the southern border of Courcelette, despite the strenuous German counter-attacks that streamed out of the shattered ruins. At around 1815, the reserve 5th Canadian Brigade arrived and with the help of a renewed artillery barrage it swept forward through the village. Alongside it, elements of the 3rd Canadian Division managed to gain a substantial foothold in the Fabeck Graben Trench. All told the Canadians of Gough’s Reserve Army had done well in extremely difficult circumstances on the flank of the main assault.”

Casualties: [21]

Killed in action:

  • 7 Officers
  • 56 Other Ranks


  • X Officers
  • X Other Ranks


  • X Officers
  • X Other Ranks

Private A. Oates was killed in action 15 September 1916.  He has no known grave.


The Vimy Memorial: [22]  Private A. Oates is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.  The Memorial overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge, about 8 kilometres northeast of Arras.  After the war, the highest point of the Vimy Ridge was chosen as the site of the great memorial to all Canadians who served their country in battle during the First World War, and particularly to the 60,000 who gave their lives in France. It also bears the names of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France who have no known grave. The memorial was designed by W S Allward.  The name of Anthony Oates is to be found on the south western plinth of the magnificent memorial to those Canadians who lost their lives in the Great War.

2nd Canadian Division Memorial: [23]  Located to the north of the Pozieres to le Sars road in the vicinity of Courcelette near to where troops of the 2nd Canadian Division including men of the 31st Battalion fell.

The Church of the Redeemer, Calgary: [24]  The 31st Battalion returned to England on 12 April 1919, disembarking at Halifax on 27 May 1919 and was demobilized in Calgary on 1 June 1919.  It was disbanded by General Order 149 of 15 September 1920.  The 31st Canadian Infantry Battalion was perpetuated by the North Alberta Regiment and the South Alberta Regiment. The battalion colours were deposited in the Church of the Redeemer, Calgary in July 1919.  Throughout the cathedral there are memorials honouring men and women who lost their lives in the Great War, the most prominent being the rood screen separating the chancel from the knave which was dedicated 14 September 1919 by the Prince of Wales, Edward Windsor (later King Edward VIII).  Across the top of the ornate oak rood screen is inscribed the verse “Their Name Liveth For Evermore” Eccl. 44:14.  Memorial tablets either side of the rood screen record the names of those who fell.  There are also memorials to commemorate individuals who lost their lives.  The 56th Infantry Battalion colours are also laid up in the Cathedral.  A total of 4,487 men served with the 31st Battalion and through the course of the war suffered 941 dead and 2,312 non-fatal casualties.

Hamsterley War Memorial, County Durham:  The memorial was unveiled in June 1921 by Colonel Dowling. [25]


[1]Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Thanks to the late Sharon and Lorne Mercier, Calgary & Dolores Roddick, Calgary

[3] England & Wales 1837-1915 Marriage Index Vol.3a p.1137 1913 Q2 Note: Is it possible that a farm labourer from County Durham would meet a woman from Hertfordshire and marry her?

[4] Note: 20 October 1911: there was also a passenger recorded as A. Oates aboard the Canadian Pacific Line “Empress of Britain” leaving Liverpool for Quebec.  This A. Oates travelled 3rd class, alone and was listed as a miner.

[5] 1913 Calgary census

[6] 1914 Calgary census

[7] Attestation Paper No.446121

[8] 1915 Calgary census

[9] 1916 Canada census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta

[10] CWGC

[11] Note: There is a Daisy M. Oates with a recorded date of death of 1965 aged 79 (giving a date of birth c.1886 which is in the correct timeframe) registered at Hackney, London.  What happened to Frances?

[12] Thanks to Al Judson, Military Archivist, King’s Own Calgary Regiment, The Regimental Museum, Mewata Armoury, 801-11th Street S.W., Calgary, Alberta T2P 2C4, Canada

[13] Attestation Paper No.446121

[14] Form R122 and the Casualty Form – Active Service Note: there are some discrepancies

[15] “31st Battalion C.E.F. 1914 – 1919” complied from its diaries & other papers by Major H.C. Singer.

[16] Various sources Peter Hart “The Somme”, Commonwealth War Graves Commission website & 1914-1918 website [The Long, Long Trail]

[17] “The Somme” P. Hart

[18] “31st Battalion C.E.F. 1914 – 1919” complied from its diaries & other papers by Major H.C. Singer

& “The Somme- the day by day account” Chris McCarthy 1993 map p.106

& http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/31st battalion.net

[19] 31st Battalion War Diary

[20] “The Somme” Peter Hart

[21] Battalion Orders No. 259 prepared by Lieut. Col. A.H. Bell Commanding 31st (Alberta) Battalion, C.E.F. for Sunday 17th September 1916 reported the casualties for the 15th September 1916

[22] CWGC

[23] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_Canadian_Division

[24] “The Cathedral the Church of the Redeemer -100 years” J. Sribney 2005

[25] North East War Memorial Project website www.newmp.org.uk


Vimy Canadian Memorial 1

Canadian Memorial 1

OATES A. Inscription Vimy Memorial

Vimy Memorial