Oates J

JOSEPH OATES (c.1898 – 1918)

260134 Lance Corporal Joseph Oates, 2nd battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 8 May 1918 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium [1] and the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages.  He was about 20 years old, the son of Robert and Jane Oates.

Family Details

Joseph Oates was born c.1898 at St. Helen’s Auckland, the son of Robert and Jane Oates.  There were at least 7 siblings:

  • Elizabeth J. born c.1886
  • James W. born c.1888
  • Mary born c.1890
  • Thomas H. born c.1892
  • Robert born c.1894
  • Joseph born c.1898
  • John born c.1901[2]

Robert Oates died in 1903 and his wife Jane married John Carney in 1905.  They had at least 1 child, John born 1906.  In 1911, the family lived at Whitwell Street, St. Helen’s Auckland, locally known as the Square.  John Carney and his step son Robert Oates worked as coal miners.  Joseph, aged 13 was at school. [3]

Service Record

The service records of Joseph Oates have not been researched.  He formerly served with the Durham Light Infantry being given the regimental number 3159 and later was transferred to the Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment (the Green Howards) at an unknown date. He entered France 27 June 1915.[4]

The 2/Yorkshire Regiment, at the beginning of the war came under the orders of 21st Brigade, 7th Division and 6 October 1915 landed at Zeebrugge.  20 December 1915 the 21st Brigade was transferred to 30th Division. [5]  The 30th Division saw action in Flanders and France throughout the war:

1916: the Battle of Albert including the capture of Montauban and fighting in Trones Wood, the Battle of Transloy Ridges (phases of the Battle of the Somme)

1917: the pursuit of the Germans to the Hindenburg Line; the First & Second Battles of the Scarpe (the Arras Offensive); the Battle of Pilkem Ridge, a phase of the Third Battle of Ypres

1918 (until 8 May, the date when L/C J. Oates was killed):

  • 21-23 March: the Battle of St. Quentin
  • 24-25 March: the Action s of the Somme Crossings
  • 26-27 March: the Battle of Rosieres

The First Battles of the Somme 1918

  • 17-19 April & 25-26 April: the First & Second Battles of Kemmel Ridge
  • 29 April: the Battle of Scherpenberg

The Battle of the Lys. [6]

The German Spring Offensive of 1918 swept through the Allied lines and the 30th Division was heavily involved as the above dates of actions confirm.  The 2/Yorkshire Regiment War Diary has not been consulted but the Green Howards official regimental history is quoted below: [7]

“The 6th [May] found the Green Howards up in the line near Voormezeele, where they relieved a South African unit and where the enemy guns were very active, firing considerably with gas shells.

“At 3.15 a.m. on the 8th the enemy laid down an exceptionally heavy bombardment on our front line and support trenches lasting four hours and causing many casualties, while the trenches were practically obliterated.

At 7.15 a.m. the Germans made an attack in force upon the Battalion front line and this having been captured by the enemy ha made for the present no further advance and at 7 in the evening a counter-attack was ordered to be made by two battalions of the 19th Brigade assisted by the Composite Brigade [a company of the Manchesters, what remained of “C” Company of the Green Howards with 2 companies of the 17th King’s] joined in the counter-attack, gaining all objectives though at a very heavy cost but not being able to hold in sufficient strength what ground had been gained.  Consequently when the enemy came on again about 9 in the evening he was able to re-establish himself in the front line.  The support line was however held until the early morning of the 9th when the 2 remaining companies of the 17th King’s relieved what was left of the Green Howards and these were taken out of the line and withdrawn to St. Lawrence Camp.”   

A month of very severe fighting ended.  The 30th Division had been reduced in strength and formed into one brigade and lent to another division, the brigade in turn was decimated and was then formed into one battalion.  A division nominally has the strength of about 18,000 men, a brigade about 4,000 men and a battalion about 1,000 men.[8]  The enemy had captured Kemmel Hill.  The village of Locre and the town of Bailleul were in total ruin.  The 2/Yorkshires lost 9 officers and 284 non-commissioned officers and men killed, wounded and missing. [9]  A total of 3 Officers and 45 Other Ranks of the 2/Yorkshire Regiment are recorded as being killed in action 8 May 1918.[10]

There can be no doubt that L/Corporal Joseph Oates was involved in very heavy fighting throughout his (almost) 3 years of service on the Western Front.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

L/Corporal Joseph Oates was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[11]


Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing:  Lance Corporal Joseph Oates has no known grave and is commemorated on this memorial along with almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are unknown.  The Memorial to the Missing forms the north eastern boundary of the Tyne Cot Cemetery and is one of 4 memorials to those with no known graves in Belgian Flanders.  The memorial was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and unveiled in July 1927. [12]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1901 census – note Joseph not present and John recorded as 1 month old

[3] 1911 census

[4] Medal Roll card index

[5] http://www.1914-1918.net/yorks.htm

[6] www.1914-1918.net/30div.htm and http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1918_pt1.htm

[7] “The Green Howards in the Great War 1914-1919” Col. H.C. Wylly (1926) p.110-112

[8] Thiepval Exhibition Center Guidebook  2004 p20

[9] “The Green Howards in the Great War” Colonel H.C. Wylly 1926 p.110-112

[10] Soldiers & Officers Died in the Great War

[11] Medal Roll card index

[12] Commonwealth war Graves Commission






OATES J. Medal Roll

Medal Roll

2 thoughts on “Oates J

  1. Pingback: ST.HELEN’S | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

  2. Pingback: WEST AUCKLAND | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s