Private William Ernest Hames
95899 7th Bn., Yorkshire Regiment who died on 27 May 1918
William Ernest Hames was born on 7 July 1899. He was the son of John William Hames, a boot tacker and his wife Sarah Elizabeth (nee Crowder). William’s sister, Stella, had died shortly after her birth in 1906. In 1901 the family was living at 8 Cross Street, Oadby but by 1911 they had moved to London Road.
Cross Street, Oadby shortly before its demolition in 1960s
William attested at Glen Parva Barracks on 19 February 1917, aged 17 years. At the time he was a shoe hand and was living in King Street, Oadby. He was placed on the army reserve awaiting call up. On 28 March William received a medical examination which noted that he was 5’7 1/2” and 110lbs. He had a mole on the front of his head.
William was mobilised on 7 August 1917 and was posted to the 7th (Reserve) Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derby Regiment). His brief service record notes that he received inoculations and vaccinations for tetanus, typhoid and smallpox on 11, 18 and 28 September. He also required dental treatment, including scaling, on 2 November.
Initially William would have undergone training in Britain as he was ineligible for overseas service until his 19th birthday. However he was posted overseas from Folkestone on 2 April 1918, arriving at Boulogne the following day.
Shortly after William arrived in France the Germans launched their Spring Offensive on 21st March. The 7th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters was one of a large number of regiments to suffer in the mass German assault that was the Third Battle of the Aisne in late May.
German Stormtroopers in training for the Spring Offensive 1918
Sunday 26 May was a quiet day for the men. They were in reserve billets at Ventelay and church services were held. At 1am on the 27 May the Germans launched the third and final phase of their spring offensive. Their intention was to thrust forward towards Paris in the hope of a major breakthrough between French and British defences. The fighting opened with a huge German artillery and gas barrage on Ventelay and the rear areas. At 4.30am the Foresters were ordered forward to the main defence line. Fierce fighting took place with many casualties before the battalion was forced into retreat.
William Hames died on the first day of the battle. His body was not recovered from the battlefield. He had served just 56 days overseas and was only 19 years old.
German troops cross a canal prior to the Third Battle of Aisne 27 May 1918
William Hames has no known grave but is Remembered with Honour on the Soissons Memorial. The Soissons Memorial commemorates almost 4,000 British officers and men who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne and who have no known grave. Four other soldiers from Oadby, from different regiments and who died on 27 and 28 May are also commemorated on the Memorial.
William Hames is also commemorated on the Oadby War Memorial and on the Oadby Senior School Memorial
Oadby Senior School Memorial
Other Family Members
A number of William’s extended family from Oadby also served during the Great War. His cousin Clarence (Seaforth Highlanders) died in 1916 and is also commemorated on the Oadby war memorial and the Senior School memorial. The Leicestershire Absent Voters list includes several of William’s uncles and cousins.
William’s father, John William Hames at the age of 44 also served. He wrote a will in February 1916, giving details of himself as a Private 20568 in the Leicestershire Regiment. The Oadby Soldiers and Sailors record of serving men appears to list him as Traffic Control Police serving with the Army Cyclist Corps but also as in 21st Division which included the Leicestershire Regiment. No service record exists but John survived the war and he died in Oadby in 1935.
In 1939 William’s mother Sarah was working as an office cleaner and swimming bath attendant for Oadby Council and living at 36 Beaumont St.
Extract from the Oadby Soldiers and Sailors list of serving men