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Richard Oakes

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Richard Oakes (1876-1944)


1945 Obituary [1]

Colonel RICHARD OAKES, C.B., C.B.E., was born in 1876 and died on 14th July 1944. Educated at Harrow, and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he obtained his Commission into the Royal Engineers in 1896, and after two years at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham, was selected for a mechanical engineering course in the Locomotive Shops of the Midland Railway at Derby. At the end of 1899 he went to South Africa at an early stage of the Boer War, and worked first with Royal Engineer Railway Companies, and subsequently in the Locomotive Department of the Central South African Railways for ten years in all, his final posting being personal assistant to the Chief Locomotive Superintendent.

On his return home in 1909, he was for three years in command of the 8th Railway Company R.E. at Longmoor.

In 1912, he was posted to the War Office, first as Staff Captain, then from 1914 to 1917 as Inspector of Iron Structures, where he was responsible for the provision of all R.E. machinery and much of the R.A.F.'s mechanical transport. This period covered the first three years of the war, and the department expanded enormously. He finished up the war period as Deputy Director of the Mesopotamia Railways. He then had a four year tour in India, becoming eventually Deputy Engineer in Chief (E. & M.) at Army H.Q., Simla.

After returning to England in 1925, he held till 1929 the appointment of Assistant Director of Transportation, War Office, being promoted Colonel on taking up the post. This was followed by two years as President of the R.E. Board. In 1931, he came to the head of the Colonel's list, but as there were no vacancies in sight for a Major General's appointment for an officer of his training, he decided to retire into civil life while young and active. He first had an appointment which took him in connection with a citrus growing concern to South Africa, where his family were at the time. Soon after he joined the staff of the Royal Society for the prevention of Accidents, where he worked for ten years till overtaken by his final illness in 1942.

For his war services he was mentioned in dispatches—twice during the South African war, and twice in the 1914-18 war. He was promoted brevet Lt.-Colonel in 1915, awarded a C.B.E. in 1919, and a C.B. in 1931.

From the bare recital of his postings it will be seen that Oakes, was one of those specialists in the Corps of R.E., who spent practically all his service on work in which Railways or mechanical engineering predominated. For this he was well fitted both by his early training in the Midland Railway Shops and by his own flair for this class of work. It was a considerable compliment to his ability that he was retained so long on the South African Railways at the close of the 1899-1902 war. He remained the last of Girouard's British Officers to be so employed. Subsequently, as Inspector of Iron Structures his work at the War Office during the last war, though known by few, was of immense value. His untiring energy and sheer determination enabled him to surmount all difficulties and to meet urgent requirements far earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

Colonel Oakes was elected a Member in 1916.


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