Pte. H. Holmes
FIRST NAMES: Henry
UNIT: 2nd Yorkshire Regiment
STATUS: Killed in Action
DATE OF DEATH: 12th March 1915
CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: The Le Touret Memorial
Private Holmes was born in Northallerton. He was the eldest son of Mrs. J. Holmes of Romanby, and his father was a tailor with Mr. Thomas Brockhill. He had at least one sister who was married to a Mr. Alfred Foster and a brother, Pte. Fred Holmes who at the time of Henry's death was serving with the Territorials in Northallerton.
Harry Holmes served his apprenticeship with a Northallerton draper, Mr. Rogerson, before joining the Army in February 1905, at the age of 18. He served with the Yorkshire Regiment for eight years, including service in Egypt and India. He then retired from the Army and became a rural postman at Thirsk before being recalled to the Army as a reservist in August 1914. He was also a keen cornet player and played in the Thirsk Town Band.
At the time of his enlistment in 1905 he was described as being 5ft 4ins tall with brown hair and dark grey eyes
He was killed, aged 26, during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Shortly after his death, his sister received a letter from one of his army pals, a H. Pickering, which was subsequently published in the Darlington & Stockton Times, and which read as follows:
" It is with great regret that I write to you and have to say that your brother Harry was killed in action on the 11th of this month, and you and your family have my deepest sympathy in your great loss. I have lost a chum which none can replace. We have been much together since I joined the 1st Battalion Band in Aldershot in 1906, and after we left Richmond we were at Khartoum together until we were called out for war, and from then until I left Richmond to be attached to the R.E. we have been side by side at Guernsey, Lyndhurst and all through the trenches at Ypres and elsewhere. If you have not received a photo of him that we had taken at Gosport together I have one rather soiled, and will be very pleased to let you have it if you care for it. Sorry I have not mentioned it before now, but I can honestly say that he died without any pain at all, as he dropped down without a word or a groan."
The discrepancy between the date of death in this letter and the official date, which is a day later, cannot be explained. The 2nd Yorkshires were in almost continuous heavy fighting from 10th to 12th March and it is therefore not altogether surprising that different accounts may vary slightly.
Shortly before dawn on 12th March the Germans counter attacked the positions which were held by the 2nd Yorkshires but were driven off, leaving 400 - 500 dead in No Man's Land. Later in the day some Germans captured a trench on the Battalion's left and a Corporal Anderson led a small party of men and successfully bombed them out and recaptured the trench. He was awarded the V.C. for his gallantry during this action but, sadly, was never to know, as he was among those posted as missing by the end of the following day.
At about 11.30 a.m. some 400 Germans surrendered after the Redoubt they were occupying had been subjected to a heavy artillery bombardment and a party from the 2nd Yorkshires occupied their former position. Unfortunately this position could be enfiladed from a neighbouring redoubt which was still in German hands. Several of the Yorkshires were killed by this fire and by German artillery fire which rained down on them when the Germans realised that the position had been lost.
Private Holmes' body could not be identified at the end of the War and he is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.