Private 330684 G. Foulkes, MM

George Foulkes was born in 1887 in Everton, Liverpool. He lived with his married sister at 174, Beacon Lane, Everton (now demolished) and was the son of Edwin Foulkes, of 20, Corless Street, Walton Breck Road, Liverpool..

He enlisted 20th October 1914 into the 9th King's and was given the number 2735.

Although many of the men who enlisted at that time were with the battalion when it was deployed to France in March 1915, George Foulkes was not with them. He was drafted overseas on 14th December 1915 and so was just eligible for the award of the 1914-15 Star.

He probably served with his battalion throughout 1916 including the Battle of the Somme, although his service records no longer exist so this cannot be confirmed. It is known that he took part in the battalion's raid on the German trench system at Oskar Farm, near Railway Wood, Ypres, on the night of the 11th/12th May 1917.

The Battalion War Diary states:
"During this tour orders were received to carry out a raid on enemy's trenches at OSKAR FARM. Practice trenches were dug in rear of Battalion headquarters & practices were carried out on two occasions at night. No Man's Land was patrolled 3 nights prior to the raid. During the afternoon of the 11th inst. Major Gossage's battery of 18 Pounders cut an excellent gap in the enemy's wire. At zero (11 p.m.) raiding party consisting of 2nd Lieuts. S.H. RANDALL, A.G. WARDE, and 40 other ranks left our trenches and proceeded across No Man's Land. At the same time our Artillery put down an excellent Barrage on enemy trenches. The enemy evidently expected the raid as Bombing Blocks were placed in his Front Line - Only three men were found in the front line, these were captured. The different parties proceeded along trenches as directed. 2nd Lieut. RANDALL's party succeeded in getting over 1 Block, they then proceeded to the 2nd Block and attacked same with bombs etc., considerable amount of groaning was heard from behind this block. All telephone wires along trench were cut. 2nd Lieut. WARDE's party proceeded south along the front line from thence down the Communication Trench. They came across a shelter in the side of the trench where several Germans were sheltering. They called upon the enemy to surrender, this they refused to do, so they immediately bombed the enemy. The enemy then ran further down the C.T. followed closely by our party. Another small shelter was encountered with several of the enemy in who refused to surrender. A bomb was immediately thrown in, 6 Germans then came out and surrendered. A bombing party of ours under Sgt. McCARTHY were counter-attacked by 6 Germans. Sgt. McCARTHY shot 3 of these men and bayonetted one, the other 2 got away.

"At 11.15 P.M. the Signal to withdraw was given. All of our men arrived back to our trenches safe with the exception of 2 men slightly wounded. On the way back to our trenches several of the prisoners captured became unruly, these were effectively dealt with. The raid was a splendid success, everything worked according to programme. 5 unwounded prisoners and 1 wounded were sent back to Brigade Headquarters. There were at least 10 Germans killed by the raiders in their trench by fair fight besides those who may have been killed at OSKAR FARM BLOCK and the dug-out mentioned as being bombed by 2nd Lieut. WARDE. Some booty was also captured. Such as Rifles, Equipment, Box Respirators, Steel Helmets, Caps, etc. The men captured belonged to the 1st Marine Infantry Regiment."

The Battalion History, published in 1922 states that the prisoners taken in the raid were from the "1st Matrosen Regiment of the German Naval Division".

There were three Military Crosses, a Distinguished Conduct medal and four Military Medals awarded in connection with this raid.

George Foulkes' citation for the award of the MM reads:
"For great bravery and coolness under fire during a raid on the enemy's trenches, near OSKAR FARM, at about I.6.C.05.82-I.6.C.00.95, on night of 11/12th May 1917.
This man with one officer bombed down an enemy trench driving a party of the enemy before them, wounding two and capturing six prisoners, and assisted in getting them back to our lines.
He stuck to his duty throughout although his hand was badly torn by barbed wire."

As was often the case, the handwritten citation (above) was subject to a few amendments before finally being approved. The final version, signed by Major General Jeudwine, Commanding 55th Division, reads:

"For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on OSKAR FARM on the night of 11th/12th May 1917.
Although his hand was badly torn by barbed wire on leaving our trenches, this man assisted 2/Lieut. WARDE to bomb down an enemy trench, driving a party of the enemy before them and eventually capturing seven and wounding two.
He afterwards brought six prisoners back to our trenches."

Not all of the recommendations for awards for this trench raid were successful, but Foulkes' contribution was deemed sufficient and the Corps Commander approved the award.

The letter of congratulations to Pte. Foulkes from the Commander of VIII Corps, Lieut.-General Hunter-Weston.

His award of the Military Medal was confirmed in the London Gazette on 9th July 1917.

A discrepancy in the records is that he was recommended for the award under the service number 330681. This number appears on the original hand-written citation and on all other documents relating to the award, including the letter of congratulations from Lieut.-General Hunter-Weston, the VIII Corps Commander. Foulkes' number was 330684 and his Military Medal is correctly named to: "330684 Pte. G. FOULKES 1/9 L'POOL R. T.F.". The number 330681 was issued to Pte. Frank Glover who later transferred to the 1/8th Battalion (The Liverpool Irish).

At the end of 1917, due to a shortage of manpower for the Army, each Infantry Brigade was reduced from four battalions to three and, as the 1/9th King's was the junior battalion of 165 Brigade it was decided that they should be disbanded. Some men were transferred to the 2/9th Battalion and so remained 9th King's, but others were transferred to the 1st, 4th and 12th King's Liverpools. George Foulkes was one of those transferred to the 1st Battalion in January 1918.

In March 1918, the Germans launched a massive offensive against the French and British lines, determined to win the war, or at least to force peace on their terms, before the United States war machine developed sufficient momentum to intervene decisively on the side of the allies. The attack was launched on 21st March and from the following day the 1st King's were involved in a fighting retreat over the old Somme battlefield of 1916. It was during this hectic period that George Foulkes and many of his colleagues, were killed in action.

Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Soldiers Died in the Great War records both give his date of death as 21st March 1918, this is probably incorrect. The only entry in the 1st Battalion War Diary for the 21st is:

"ROQUIGNY. Battalion stood to. Certain amount of shelling."

In contrast, the entries for the 22nd and subsequent days are very detailed, filling page after page, culminating in the final entry for the 26th which reads:

"Casualties for period 22nd to 26th inclusive, Officers 8, Other Ranks 319"

The Battalion's fighting strength had been reduced to just 100.

George Foulkes has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.