Oke, Robert William Leslie (1885-1915)
Sherborne School, UK, Book of Remembrance for former pupils who died in the First World War, 1914-1918.
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Credit: Sherborne School Archives, Abbey Road, Sherborne, Dorset, UK, DT9 3AP.
Details: Robert William Leslie Oke, born in Norwood on 12 February 1885, son of Alfred William Oke (solicitor) and Catherine Coldhall/Coldcall Oke (nee Unwin) of 8 Cumberland Place, Southampton. Married to Marjorie de Landulph (nee Sprye).
Attended Highfield School, Southampton.
Attended Sherborne School (Abbey House) January-December 1898.
Attended Rugby (Stallard House).
Attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, 1903. Represented his University against Oxford in the Heavy Weight Boxing in 1906.
Studied Medicine at the London Hospital. In the 1911 census he is described as a medical student and living in Hove.
Travelled in Canada and South America.
WW1, Lieutenant (temporary Captain), Royal Berkshire Regiment, 3rd Bn. When war broke out, he joined the 3rd (reserve) Battalion , the Royal Berkshire Regiment but was then attached to the 2nd Battalion. They had been stationed in India in August 1914 and rushed back to England, landing on the 22nd October. Robert was promoted Lieutenant, backdated to the 9th December, just after sailing with the 2nd Battalion on the 12th. The Battalion was part of the 25th Brigade, 8th Division and they arrived at the front just after the first Battle of Ypres and in time to take part in the famous Christmas Truce of 1914. The Battalion fought at Neuve Chapelle on the 10th March followed by Aubers in May and Fromelles on the 19th July. Robert, however was taken ill with gastric influenza on the 1 March and missed the action at Neuve Chapelle. His illness resulted in jaundice and he was sent home on the hospital ship St David from Boulogne to Dover on the 7th March, spending a month recovering in England. Killed on 25 September 1915 at Bois Grenier Armentieres, France.
Ploegsteert Memorial, Panels 7-8 www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1643117/OKE,%20ROBERT...
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
We are grateful to Mrs Diana Summers, Gonville and Caius College for the following information:
Robert died on the first day of the Battle of Loos, the 25th September 1915. His body was not recovered and he is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial. He was fighting at Bois Grenier, the ancillary action that was designed 'to capture about 1200 yards of the German front line system opposite the re-entrant and link them up with our own line at the Well Farm and Le Bridoux salients, thereby both shortening and strengthening our position'. A four day bombardment heralded the attack at 3.30 am on the 25th. The History of the 8th Division records:
Three companies of 2/Royal Berkshire attacked through the centre. One company was picked up in a searchlight and came under fire while forming up. The attack was also successful in capturing the front line, as was the effort of two companies of 2/Lincolnshire on the left. The one problem was a 200 yard section of trench between the Rifle Brigade and Berkshire companies that remained in German hands. It was linked to a communication trench through which the Germans could funnel forward counterattack troops.
The Berkshires were ordered back when they came under heavy pressure. They did not reach the German lines and the centre gave way under the German assault. His school obituary states that Robert: ‘was leading his Company into action when he received a bullet wound in the shoulder, but still went on till he was killed …’
His Colonel wrote: "I do not know how to replace him. He had so much influence with the men. They fought splendidly for the rest of the day and showed a fine example."