John Thomas Stokes

Name John Thomas Stokes
Corps East Surrey Regiment, 8th Battalion, formerly 98788 Sherwood Foresters
Rank Private
Service No. 42153
Date / Place of entry Oakham
Date of death 18/09/1918 Killed in Action
Memorial / Grave Templeux-le-Guerard British cemetery, Grave II.C.17

John Thomas Stokes, second cousin to Edgar, Arthur and Leonard Joseph Stokes, was the second son of George Thomas Stokes who grew up in Drayton, living a few doors down from Edgar’s family on Main Street. After marrying in 1897 George settled in Oakham where he worked as a railway porter. His son John Thomas was born there in the early summer of 1899.

When conscription was introduced in 1916, the minimum enlistment age was eighteen. If John Thomas was called up - men could still volunteer if they wished – it was probably in the summer of 1917 and he cannot have been in the Sherwood Foresters for long. The Regiment had thirty three Battalions during the war of which only twenty served overseas so he may well not have served with them in France. Like his distant cousin Leonard, John Thomas was sent to the East Surrey Regiment. The 8th (Service) Battalion of which he was part was a New Army Battalion raised in September 1914 and formed part of the 55 Brigade in the 18th Division on the Western Front.

On 16 Sept the 8th moved into the Saulcourt area of the Somme and on the 18th took part in general operations at dawn south of the village of Villers Faucon. Gas was lying thickly so masks had to be worn. During the ensuing day’s fighting nineteen other ranks including John Thomas were killed and four reported missing, plus two officers killed. He was nineteen years old. He is buried in the British Cemetery at Templeux-le-Guerard, a village twenty six kilometres east of Peronne in the Somme region. In Commonwealth hands from April 1917, it was lost the following March but retaken on 18th September 1918, the day John Thomas died at the age of nineteen. The Cemetery holds over 750 casualties of whom nearly a quarter are unidentified.

John Thomas’ father George lived until 1950, his mother Annie until 1938. Their only other child, George William, died in 1979.