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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 71334
15th Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who was killed in action on Monday, 30th September 1918
Age 21

No Known Grave Panel 99 to 102 & 162 to 162a
Memorial to the "Missing", Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, West Flanders, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium1

Albert Oldham was born in Beeston, Notts in 18972, the sixth of seven surviving children, of Thomas Henry (b. c1861, Beeston) and Jane (b. 1864, Broadway, Somerset, née Kitch). In 1901 the family, including the eldest six children, was living at 24 City Road, Beeston with Thomas working as a cycle painter, probably at the Humber factory3. By 1911, they had moved to 5 Regent Street, Beeston with Thomas working as a bricklayer and Albert, now 13, working as a printer's errand boy4.

As Albert's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted, but it was probably in September 19165 with Sherwood Foresters. After initial training, he joined the 15th Battalion, part of 117th Brigade of 39th Division, in France in early 1917 and probably took part in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line6.

Then on the last day of July, the three-month long series of bitter battles which made up the Third Battle of Ypres - also known as Passchendaele - began. For those involved, it was a terrible battle, fought for much of the time in heavy rain which resulted in horrendous battlefield conditions with thick impassable mud everywhere, made even more terrible by the almost continuous shelling. 15th Battalion was in action in October in particular - in the fighting in Houthulst Forest and in the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

On 21st March, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive from the Hindenburg Line with the objective of ending the war before American troops and resources could tilt the balance towards the Allies. Its aim was to smash through the Allied lines, push the British forces into the sea and to cut off their supply lines by seizing the ports. The enemy attacked heavily, first against the Somme front and later against other parts of the line. Although Allied forces fought back resolutely, they were forced to withdraw to positions that could finally be defended. The enemy made heavy spectacular gains and there were heavy Allied losses but, ultimately, the German forces were unable to maintain supplies to its advanced forces and the attacks petered during the summer. During March and April 15th Battalion had been near Ypres providing working parties and repairing trenches and communications but there was frequent shelling and gas attacks. On 29th April, Private Oldham was struck by gun-fire, receiving a wound to his left eye and was admitted to No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Doullens, France for initial treatment, before transfer to a Base Hospital the next day7.

Although details of his treatment and length of his recovery is unknown, it seems that, by the time of 5th Battle of Ypres which began on 28th September. 15th Battalion was engaged in support operations when, at some time up to the 30 September, Private Oldham was killed.

As Private Oldham's body was never identified he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing within the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery of that name. The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. On the forward slope of the Passchendaele Ridge is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war. The cemetery and its surrounding memorial are located outside of Passchendaele, near Zonnebeke in Belgium. The Cross of Sacrifice is to be found in a central position in the cemetery, at the base of the cross a small patch of the original German Block House can still be seen, contained within a bronze wreath, while on the far side, between it and the memorial wall, is a collection of some 300 graves. These are the original battle-field burials left where they were found after the Armistice. The other some nearly 12,000 graves which stand in parade ground order, were brought in from the surrounding area after the Armistice. The stone wall surrounding the cemetery makes up the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. On completion of the Menin Gate memorial to the missing in Ypres, it was discovered that it was too small to contain all the names that were originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15th August was chosen and the names of the UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial instead. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces and a further 1,176 New Zealanders.8.

Private Oldham was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal9. His financial effects, amounting to 18 10s, including his war gratuity of 11 10s, were paid to his father, on 21 November 191010.

Albert's older brother, George Oldham was killed in action on 28 March 1918 while serving with the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers.

1The photograph of the Tyne Cot Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q4/1897 (Ref 7b 208).
3Beeston, Notts, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 113.
Albert's siblings were then Thomas (1881-1944), Harry (b. c1884), William (b. c1885), George (1890-1918) and James H (b. c1896)
4Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20431 RD429 SD3 ED6 Schedule 271
5The probable date of Albert's enlistment has been calculated from the amount of his War Gratuity.
6Details of the battalion's deployment are based on the Forces War Records website (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/319/sherwood-foresters-nottinghamshire-and-derbyshire-regiment) and the Battalion's War Diary.
7Private Oldham's admission to hospital is recorded in a return of Wounded and Sick NCOs and Men of the Expeditionary Force, available at Findmypast.
8The description of the Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
9Details from Albert's entry in the Medal Roll - available on ancestry.com.
10Details from "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.

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