Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

Frederick William Bateman, died July 19, 1916, Fromelles

Uncle may be in soldiers’ mass grave

From the Bicester Advertiser, first published Tuesday 12th Aug 2008.

THE nephew of one of Oxford’s First World War soldiers believed to have been buried in a mass grave in France has shed some light on his uncle’s life.

Frederick William Bateman was a private in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when he died, aged 25, on July 19, 1916.

It is believed he was among thousands of Allied dead at the Battle of Fromelles, which raged for 24 hours from July 19, 1916.

Private Bateman has never been formally buried and his could be among about 400 British and Australian soldiers’ bodies discovered in a nearby mass grave in June.

The governments of Britain and Australia have now agreed to exhume and individually re-bury those remains.

After reading an article, Private Bateman’s nephew, Stanley Bateman, of Cromwell Way, Kidlington, contacted us.

Mr Bateman, 80, who lives with his wife Mary, 82, said: “I was a bit surprised to see it in the paper. I was surprised because my grandmother and my father said that he was not killed like that at all.

“They said that had been killed by a shell exploding in a trench, but I don’t know much about it.”

A war diary from the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, unearthed by Eynsham historian John Blakeman, indicates shells did cause a number of deaths during the battle.

The diary reads: “19/07/16: ‘ZERO’ was at 11am and at that hour our bombardment started. By 5.30pm we had lost nearly 100 men killed and wounded by shell fire.”

The Battle of Fromelles, which was an Allied attempt to divert German resources from the Somme, about 50 miles to the south, was an abject failure which saw 5,533 Australian casualties (killed, wounded or captured) and 1,547 British casualties.

The diary continues: “The whole attack was unsuccessful in that the enemy’s trenches, though penetrated, were not consolidated and held.

“One of the most striking lessons to be learnt from this attack is that the greatly superior method of holding trenches, adopted by the Germans, should be at once followed by the British and French armies.”

Private Bateman was the son of Frederick and Esther Bateman, of 49 Botley Road, West Oxford. He had three sisters, Ada, Betty and Florence, and a brother, Frank, who is Stanley Bateman’s father.

Mr Bateman, who himself served in the Navy from 1946 to 1949 before working at Morris Motors, in Cowley, for 30 years, said: “Before he joined the Army he was what was known in those days as an outrider for a store in Park End Street.

“My grandmother, Esther, was a Londoner but I don’t know where my grandfather was from – he was a full-time soldier.

He added: “I know my father, Frank, was in the First World War and I am not sure but I think he was also in the Boer War.”

Mr Bateman and his 76-year-old sister, Mary, who now lives in Long Hanborough, west Oxfordshire, are the only two remaining members of the family.

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