Born: Hemel Hempstead.
Enlisted: Hemel Hempstead.
Residence: Hemel Hempstead.
Gazette, 8-1-1916, p. 1
Nimrod Oakins, the son of George and Lucy Oakins, of 29 Mill Street, Apsley, served in the 2nd Battalion, The Bedfordshires and was killed in action on 17/5/15 aged 23.
17th May was a day of major action for the 2nd battalion, having been in action the day before as well. In the early morning they withdrew from their position to a reserve trench, before being given the order to move up to the old German line mid afternoon, for an attack in conjunction with the 4th Cameron Highlanders. The attack was led by B and C companies with A and D in support. The Commanding Officer (CO) of D Company is noteworthy, Major J. Mackenzie, for holding the VC, won in West Africa in 1900. His Wikipedia page is here.
B and C companies came under heavy Machine gun, shrapnel and rifle fire as soon as they left the trench at 7.30 pm, so much so that by 9 pm, the battalion CO, Lieutenant Colonel Thorpe called a halt to the attack, due to the heavy fire, the difficult terrain (ditches up to 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide filled with water, running horizontally and diagonally to the axis of advance), loss of cohesion and contact with the Highlanders to the right of the battalion and enveloping darkness. Despite this, some sections did push on and reach German lines, misunderstanding the order to halt, sections under 2nd Lieutenants Stonier and Brewer even exchanging grenades with the German troops.
The battalion reformed at the start point of the assault, the old German trench, Major Mackenzie was killed at some point, leading from the front. Oakins also evidently lost his life at some point during the attack. It is impossible to say exactly when, or how, as I am unsure of Oakins’ company or platoon, and the war diary of the battalion makes no mention of him, as he was an enlisted man as opposed to an officer like Major Mackenzie. Although it should also be noted that even if his specific unit had been recorded the midst of battle is a hectic place, and how he died may not have even been noticed by his comrades, much less recorded.
Nimrod Oakins died in the Battle of Festubert (15-25 May), part of the larger second Battle of Artois. He was one of 16,648 British casualties and one of 4,123 from his division, the 7th Division. The Germans lost 5000 men, with 800 captured. The battle resulted in a 3 km (1.9 mi) advance, roughly the distance from Hemel’s ‘magic roundabout’ to Breakspear Park.
By Matt James