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George William Holmes

Arthur, George, Florrie and Annie HolmesGeorge William Holmes was born at Great Longstone, Derbyshire in September of 1887 the second son of George and Annie Eliza Holmes. His mother brought up the children alone as her husband (a Carter and Farmer) had been killed by a horse at Matlock Flour Mill in 1896. By 1915 George, mother Annie and sister Florence had moved to 6 Neale Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester. At the age of 28 years and 3 months, George enlisted in the army on the 9th of December 1915 for the duration of the war. His “Soldier’s Little Book” of regulations described him as a Private (31435) in the 25th Reserve Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. His medical record stated that he was 5 feet 9 inches tall with a chest girth of 36 inches fully expanded and with brown hair but without other distinguishing marks. His mother was named as his next of kin.

He underwent basic training and on the 8thof April 1916 George embarked on the George top extreme right with comradesferry ‘Princess Victoria’ arriving at the great base of Étaples the next day. On the 18th of April he was listed as “in the field”. In letters to his elder brother Arthur dated the 9th and 29th of May 1916 when in “C” Company of the 18th Manchester’s 2nd Trenching Battalion he wrote of the poor weather conditions and that from time to time he was obliged to sleep in wet clothes but expressed his pleasure at receiving news of home.

He took part in the “big push” of the 1st of July 1916 as a member of the Reserve Battalion that helped capture Montauban. By the 8th of July George acted as the personal messenger (“runner”) for Captain W.F. Routley of “A” Company, the 18th Manchester’s and was with him throughout the actions of Trones Wood.

George's last letter home dated 29th July 1916In his last letter of 29th of July he told the family not to worry, he was contented with his decision to join the army and was resigned to his lot. The next day George in “A” Company was in the forefront of the disastrous attack on Guillemont. Routley and George Holmes reached the village but were both later posted as missing.

Routley was captured and survived the war but George was never seen again and assumed killed probably near to the village church. His name is listed with 73,000 others on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme.

In 1919 Major Routley wrote to his mother paying glowing tribute to George’s courage and expressing great admiration for his bravery as a soldier. His mother received George’s Victory Medal on the 7th May 1920 but this must have been scant recompense for the loss of her son.

By Dr John M Armstrong