Clifford Nicholas OATES

OATES, Clifford Nicholas

Service Number: 1025
Enlisted: 23 July 1915, Perth, Western Australia
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Farrell Flat, South Australia, 30 October 1893
Home Town: Victoria Park, Victoria Park, Western Australia
Schooling: Perth Boys Central School, Western Australia
Occupation: Auctioneer
Died: Killed in Action, Fromelles, France, 20 July 1916, aged 22 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
VC Corner Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Dalgetys Honour Roll WA, V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery Memorial, Victoria Park State School Honour Board, Victoria Park War Memorial, West Leederville War Memorial
Show Relationships

World War 1 Service

23 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1025, Perth, Western Australia
18 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1025, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1,

--- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '17' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Geelong embarkation_ship_number: A2 public_note: ''

18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 1025, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
20 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 1025, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix),

--- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 1025 awm_unit: 32nd Australian Infantry Battalion awm_rank: Lance Corporal awm_died_date: 1916-07-20

Help us honour Clifford Nicholas Oates's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by John Edwards


Lance-Corporal Clifford Oates, who was killed in action in France on July 20, was the youngest son of Mrs. M. Oates and the late Mr. P. Oates, of Perth. Previously his parents lived at the Burra. He was also a nephew of Mr. Stanley Oates, of Prospect. On November 18 he embarked for the front. Lance-Corporal Oates spent some months in the first line of defence on the Suez Canal, and later his battalion was moved to France. For some years previous to the outbreak of war he was in the employ of Messrs. Dalgety & Co, at Fremantle, Western Australia." - from the Adelaide Chronicle 16 Sep 1916 (


Biography contributed by Geoff Tilley

Clifford Nichols Oates was born in Burra, South Australia in 1893 to parents Philip and Mary Oates (nee Nichols) who were married in Iron Side, South Australia near Burra in July 1885. Clifford was one of six siblings with four brothers and one sister.
It is unknown when the Oates family moved to Western Australia however it is believed to be after the birth of their daughter Gladys the youngest who was born in 1895 at Burra. The family moved to Victoria Park where Clifford’s father worked as a carrier.
In April 1903 Clifford’s father died from a fever in Perth Hospital, he was 41 years of age and is buried in Karrakatta Cemetery. Clifford was ten years of age at the time of his father’s death where his mother Mary later moved to West Leederville.
Clifford attended Perth Boys Central School and on completing school was employed by Messrs Dalgety & Co at Fremantle as an auctioneer. He also served in the 11th Infantry, Citizen Military Forces for 12 months.
In July 1915 Clifford conducted his medical at Perth and was declared fit for service, joining the A.I.F in August 1915. On enlistment into the A.I.F. Clifford listed his address as Leonard Street Victoria Park, his mother’s address.
Clifford conducted his training at Blackboy Hill, Perth attached to 32nd Battalion. Two companies C and D of 32nd Battalion were formed at Blackboy Hill. It was in September 1915 that these two companies sailed from Fremantle for Adelaide South Australia to join A and B companies to form the remainder of the battalion which had been raised at Adelaide, forming part of the 8th Brigade.
Clifford’s eldest brother Hedley Gilbert Oates who was in South Africa at the outbreak of the Great war was unable to return to Perth and enlisted into the South African Army. Clifford’s sister Gladys in 1918 married a Captain Percival John Rillstone who was born in Ballarat Victoria, joined the A.I.F. in 1915 attached to 48th Battalion. He was wounded at Pozieres, France returning to England acting as a Brigade-Major at Headquarters London.  
Clifford embarked from Adelaide, South Australia in November 1915 aboard HMAT Geelong A2, attached to C Company. Arriving in Egypt in December 1915 the battalion conducted further training at Tel-el-Kebir. In January 1916 at Ismalia Clifford was absent from duty from 0900 – 1800 hours, he was found guilty and forfeited 3 days pay. In May 1916 he was promoted to Lance Corporal before embarking to France from Alexandria in June 1916 to join the British Expeditionary Forces. On arrival at Marseilles, France Clifford was sent Morbecque near Hazebrouck in northern France.

It was in July 1916 that Albert with the battalion moved to their billets at Fleurbaix in preparation for an assault on the German trenches at Fromelles. The plan was to use Brigades from the Australian Fifth Division to conduct a diversionary assault of the German trenches at Fromelles.

The Australian 8th Brigade which 32nd Battalion was a part of along with 31st Battalion were to assault the German trenches on the left flank crossing only 100 metres of no man’s land to get the trenches. The 32nd Battalion was on the extreme left flank their job made more difficult, not only did they have to protect themselves, but advancing on the German lines they had to block off the Germans on their left, to stop them from coming around behind them whilst advancing. The assault was due to commence at 6pm on 19th July 1916.

Clifford in C Company along with A Company formed the first and second waves of the attack. Even before the attack commenced the Australians not only suffered casualties from the German artillery but also from their own inexperienced Australian artillery who lacked the skills to provide artillery cover for the assault.

With the 32nd and 31st Battalions commencing their assault and suffering heavy casualties, against all odds the men were able to capture the German frontline trenches opposite them. Pushing onto their final objective, the support trenches they failed to find these trenches which turned out to be ditches or abandoned trenches overgrown with grass and half full of water. The failure in selecting the final objective by commanders for the 8th Brigade was due to reading of unreliable maps that were taken the previous year in 1915 when they were first dug by the Germans.

With the 32nd Battalion suffering heavy casualties from continued German counter attacks during the night which were able to penetrate the gaps in the Australian lines, the Australians maintained their positions until about 3.45am before being surrounded. It was at this time the Australians decided to withdraw from the trenches to fight their way back to their lines.

Clifford’s fate during the initial assault is unknown as there were no witnesses or reports on him making it to the German trenches. Initial reports recorded his fate as wounded in action, which his mother received notification of this in August 1916. This was followed up with further correspondence to his mother in the September with his fate now recorded as killed in action.

There was no further follow up information on Clifford’s death to his mother. His name was not recorded on a German death list, or his identity disc was not noted as having been returned from Germany.

Lance Corporal Clifford Nichols Oates 1025 has no known grave and remains as missing. He is commemorated at VC Corner Australian Military Cemetery, Fromelles France.

In August 1919 his mother dedicated a memorial plaque, planting a tree in his honour on May Drive Kings Park Botanical Gardens, Perth. He was 23 years of age.