John Oscar OAKLEY
Rank: Private
Number: 4997
Unit: 11th Battalion ROYAL FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 2 April 1918
Age: 25
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

John was born in Sale, the son of Alfred and Caroline. He had an older sister called Beatrice. Caroline may have died by the time of the 1901 Census as Alfred and the two children were living with his mother at 19 Burlington Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock. The family are thought to have continued to live in the general area until at least the time of the War, as John is noted in army records as living in Longsight at the time of his enlistment.

Alfred's occupation, recorded on the Census, was a plumber's clerk - a title indicating a more significant middle-class occupation than might be implied today. No doubt, John will have also followed into a "white collar" occupation and it is no surprise that, as with many young men of his class, he chose to join a Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. The Regiment was regarded as something of an elite unit.

On 21 March 1918, the German army launched a major, and overwhelming, assault on the British trenches, along many miles of the front line. Within hours, many Tommies were dead, injured or prisoner. Those who had escaped were in retreat. The gains of the previous two years were lost in the next few days. However, by the end of the month, the attacks were petering out as the German supply lines became over-stretched and soon, the British were able to think of counter-attack.

At the beginning of April, John and his comrades were in reserve near  the French village of Gentelles (some 20 kilometres south east of Amiens). On the 2nd, they were ordered to move to Hangard and attack German positions on high ground to the east of the village. At "zero hour", they advanced but intense enemy artillery and machine gun fire, stopped them and it was impossible to develop the attack. The Battalion was ordered back to Gentelles after suffering many casualties. John's body was never recovered and identified.

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