On 2 September 1914, three young local men, doubtless excited by the adventures that lay ahead, enlisted in the 7th Battalion Royal Sussex regiment at Tunbridge Wells. They were William Richard Boakes (No G785), his younger brother Frederick George Boakes (G786) and (Alfred) James Miles (G787). We know James Miles (J Miles 1916 Lych-gate) was quickly rejected as medically unfit but later died serving with the Royal West Kents. The 7th arrived in France on 1st June 1915. On 7th July 1916, one week into the Battle of the Somme, the battalion was ordered to attack the fortified village of Ovillers. It was their bloodiest day. Of 25 officers who took part, 8 were killed, 13 wounded. (84% casualties) Of 650 other ranks, 134 died, 306 were wounded.(68%). One of the dead was Frederick Boakes, aged 23. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial dedicated to the 72,000 similarly lost men of the Somme campaign. He does not feature on any local memorial. The Boakes family moved from Wychwood Cottage, Cowden to Hethe Place Cottage, Blackham sometime after 1911. So many years on it's not possible to explain the inclusions and omissions of the Blackham memorials but three men with village connections enlisted that day. Two of them died. When you remember J.Miles 1916 think also of his friend Fred who stood beside him at enlistment.
William & Frederick Boakes
Brothers who joined up together
Thanks to Frank Wiltshire for this research
Bill Boakes (left) with Harry Tester 1932
Frederick Boakes entry on Commonwealth War Graves website
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James Miles’s story James Miles’s story