Private, 45690, 36th Company, Machine Gun Corps
Died 26 April 1917 at Étaples hospital, Pas de Calais, France
of gunshot wounds to the head. He was aged 19.
Buried at Étaples Military Cemetery: Grave XVIII. A. 5A

(left) Étaples Military Cemetery   (right) Machine Gun Corps commemorative plaque
(Click to enlarge)

Private Ernest Stanley Boakes, 45690, 36th Company, the Machine Gun Corps, was born in Hartfield in 1897. He was the son of John (b. 1851) and Hester (née Fermor, b.1856) Boakes — suggesting his mother was aged 41, and father 46, when he was born. John Boakes died in May 1924 and Hester in 1929; they were both aged 73.

In the 1911 census Ernest was listed as a scholar, aged 13, and living at Rogers Town, Holtye, Cowden, Kent. His pre-war occupation was agricultural labourer.

Ernest's elder brother Horace, aged 17 was listed in 1911 as a farm labourer, and another brother, Frank, who was 15 at the time, was listed as a houseboy. Horace later worked on the railway at Groombridge and died in 1969. Frank emigrated to the USA and in 1919 enlisted in the US Army. He was posted to Germany in 1919. By 1921 he was back in the US, living in Newport, Rhode Island. Frank died in New Jersey, USA, in 1977 aged 82. Unfortunately, their brothers Harry and William died in December 1915. Harry was 28 and John was 24. Harry was born on 18 December 1886. In 1906 he was working on the railways at London Bridge. John was christened William George and was a baker in 1911 and lived with Albert and Alice Crittenden in Hartfield. Despite reviewing the East Grinstead Observer and other sources from late 1915 and early 1916 we could not find any records around the cause of death.

Ernest Boakes enlisted on 10 May 1916 at Chichester, originally in the East Surrey Regiment.

Ernest died aged 19 on 26 April 1917 at Étaples hospital, Pas de Calais, France, of gunshot wounds to his head sustained on 9 April 1917. He is also listed as suffering from meningitis encephalitis. The time and place of death was recorded as 6am, No.22 Ambulance Train, Monsley, 9 April 1917, No.19 Casualty Clearing Station.

He is buried at Étaples Military Cemetery: Grave XVIII. A. 5A. The inscription on his headstone reads: "In memory of the dearly beloved son of Mr and Mrs John Boakes of Hartfield, Sussex". His father's address is given as Mr John Boakes, Rogers Town, Holtye, Cowden, Kent.

Ernest is listed on the war memorials in Hartfield and on Holtye Road.

(above) The employment records of Ernest Boakes' brother, Harry, with the London, Brighton & South Coast railway company. They appear to show that he entered service with the company on 29 June 1906, but moved to Groombridge, Sussex, in June 1907 where he served as a porter earning 16 shillings a week, then moved as a porter (signal) to London Bridge on 3 June 1910, apparently earning 18 shillings a week.

(Click to enlarge)

Carol O'Driscoll