Private Frederick (Fred) HOLMES


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
6th (Reserve) Battalion
Service Number:
331224
(Formerly: 2475)
Date of Death:
7 December 1918 - Died (Home)
Age:
25
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
2562


Personal History:

Frederick (known as 'Fred') was born in the June quarter 1893, the son of John Henry (Joiner) and Anne Holmes of 29 South Avenue, Buxton. He had seven older brothers and sisters, Alfred E., Harry, A., Mary E., Walter, John William, Ida and Annie, and a younger sister, Edith. (1901 Census RG 13/3269).

In 1911 (Census RG 14/21240) the family had moved to 39 South Avenue and Fred was working as a "House decorator". At the time of his enlistment in October 1914 Fred was 5 ft. 3 ins. (1.60 m) tall, weighed 8 st. 0 lbs. (50.8 kgs.), had brown eyes, dark brown hair and a 'fresh' complexion. He gave his religion as Church of England. [In 1917, however, after his discharge, he was then described as having a "sallow" complexion. His occupation on discharge was recorded as "House Painter".]

Fred had been invalided out of the Army almost a year when
he died and was buried in Buxton Cemetery. His parents,
John and Anne, were later buried in the same grave.

In reporting his death, 'The Buxton Advertiser' (29th September
1918) stated that the cause of death was ".. pneumonia following
influenza." It also reported that Frederick was "  a keen supporter "
of the Buxton Comrades of the Great War Association.

Military History:
Fred enlisted into the 6th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters, at Buxton on the 8th October 1914, for "The Duration of The War". He gave his age as "20 years 7 months", although he was probably over 21. Being the local Battalion he more than likely joined "C" Company. The Battalion had been formed in Chesterfield at the outbreak of War, part of Notts. & Derby Brigade in the North Midland Division. On mobilisation it moved to Harpenden and went on in November 1914 to Braintree.

King George V inspected the Division on the 19th February 1915 before, soon after midnight on the 24th February, the Battalion marched to Braintree Station having been posted to France, leaving Southampton on the 25th February 1915, landing at Le Havre the following day, although Fred's papers give his date as the 28th. He had had just 20 weeks training. The North Midland was the first Territorial Force Division to arrive complete in a theatre of war. The first months were spent in the Ypres salient.

On the 1st April 1915 the Battalion (as part of The Division) received orders to march to Locre in Belgium to relieve the 28th Division in the trenches around Kemmell. The 6th Battalion alternate trench duty on a four day rotation with the 7th Battalion. They stayed in this area until well into June.

"When the Battalion first went into the line there were no communication trenches and all journeys to the front had to be made by night, and to the 6th was allotted a piece of digging of which they were justly proud. This was the digging of the long trench which was named "Via Gellia" after the well known Derbyshire road of that name. The digging was accomplished in two nights and as Via Gellia it remained a memorial to the Battalion until two years afterwards when after the Battle of Messines it was dismantled. Fortunately Colonel Goodman, who happened to be with his Brigade not far away, secured the name board of the trench and it is now in the Regimental Museum collection." (Battalion History, page 34)

Fred returned to England on the 7th July 1915 and was posted from the 1/6th to the 3/6th Battalion on the 15th October. (The 3/6th Battalion had been formed as a home base on the 1st March 1915 and moved to Grantham in October 1915). 46 men of the 1/6th Battalion lost their lives during the 130 days Fred was in France.

On the 9th November 1915 Fred was posted back to the 1/6th Battalion and returned to his unit in France the following day. After only 25 days, however, on the 4th December, he once again returned to England and on the 14th January 1916 was posted back to the 3/6th Battalion. Five members of Fred's Battalion were killed in his second period in France. On the 8th April the 3/6th became the 6th (Reserve) Battalion.

The reasons for Fred's many changes of Battalion can only be down to ill health, as he moved again on the 10th July 1916 from the 6th to the 29th Provisional Battalion. On the 1st January 1917, the 29th Provisional Battalion became the 21st Sherwood Foresters. It had been formed in June 1915 from Home Service personnel. Based initially at Walton-on-the-Naze, it moved to Frinton by July 1917 and to Clacton by November. A month or so later Fred was discharged on the 14th December 1917, as "No longer physically fit for War Service". His record states; "Character Good", and "Eligible for Pension 25/3/17". In total he had served 3 years 68 days with the Colours, 155 days with the B.E.F. in France.

In addition to his War Medals Fred received the 'Silver War Badge' (No. 300911) and the reason listed in the records is "sickness" (as opposed to 'Wounded'). Fred died a year later, on the 7th December 1918, though seemingly of an unrelated
cause.  In reporting his death, 'The Buxton Advertiser' (29th September 1918) stated that the cause of death was
".. pneumonia following influenza", possibly as a result of the unusually deadly influenza pandemic, involving the H1N1
influenza virus, which had begun in January 1918 and lasted until December 1920. 

It went on to say that: "The funeral, with military honours, took place on Wednesday at Buxton Cemetery.   .  The coffin was carried on the gun-carriage by six of the Comrades (i.e. Buxton Comrades of the Great War Association.), and was draped in the Union Jack. Service was conducted in S. Mary's Church, conducted by the priest-in-charge [the Rev. A. Urling Smith], who also conducted the obsequies at the graveside. The "Dead March" was played in the Church . and at the graveside the firing party gave three volleys in salute, and the "Last Post" was sounded."

Fred is buried in Buxton Cemetery, in Grave 2562, a family, not a CWGC grave. His mother joined him in October 1926, aged 73 and his father was also buried in the same grave in May 1941.

                               

Sources:
· The Buxton Advertiser - 21 September 1918

Link to CWGC Record
Fred Holmes' Grave
Inscription on Fred Holmes' grave
Fred's parents' grave
poppy
... about the Silver War Badge