Our People - Robert Holmes
25 January 1915
#9983 Guardsman Robert Holmes
1st Battalion, Scots Guards
1st (Guards) Brigade, 1st Division
Killed in action 25 January 1915 age 19
Canadian Cemetery No.2, Neuville-St.Vaast, Pas de Calais, France.
Son of John and Jane Holmes, of "Hambledene", Windsor Ave., Leyland, Lancashire.
INSCRIPTION: "THE COUNTRY CALLED HE ANSWERED"
Robert Holmes was born 9 September 1895 to John and Jane Holmes and baptised the following month 13 October 1895 at St.Andrews, Leyland. His father was a fruiterer on Towngate at 5 Garden Terrace (now 105 Towngate). He enlisted at age 19 in Preston at the outbreak of the war and went out to France 4 January 1915. He was a member of Leyland Congregational Church (now Leyland United Reformed Church).
Robert joined up 2 September 1914 and arrived in France 5 January 1915. He was one of three local men who were killed in action at the same time., dying alongside Guardsmen Harold Southworth and William Collinge who were occupying the same stretch of trench.
According to local newspaper reports, they were blown up by a mine on 25 January 1915. However, it appears that these reports may be incorrect and they were most probably killed by gun shot wounds. See below for the War Diary excerpt. Robert's nephew, David Sumner has in his possession, a letter from one George Charnley dated 1 June 1915 written from a German POW camp Merseburg which in part says - "Harold Southworth was shot through the head (as he was next to him) also two more Leyland boys in R Holmes and W Collinge”. Robert was 19 years of age.
On that day the British Expeditionary Force fought what became known as ‘The First Action at Givenchy’ – Givenchy is 3.5 km west of La Bassée. The War diary of the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, records the following:
Robert's death was reported in the local newspapers.
A memorial service was held at Leyland Congregational Church on Sunday 30 January 1916. The register of soldiers' effects shows that Robert left £3 6s. 4d. and a War Gratuity of £3. 0s. 0d. to his father John.
Robert and William are buried side by side at Canadian Cemetery No.2, Neuville-St.Vaast, Pas de Calais – Robert in plot 12. F. 2. and William in plot 12. F. 3. Harold is remembered on Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France on panels 3 and 4. Locally, Robert appears on the civic war memorial on Church road, the United Reformed Church memorial lamp on Hough lane and also on the gravestone over the family plot in St.Andrews churchyard. He appears on the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle. Note that Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives his age as 20, he was actually 19 when he died. Robert appears on the Leyland - Church Road Civic Memorial and the Leyland - United Reformed Church Lamp.
Guardsman Robert Holmes. This image has been altered to show his posthumously awarded1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal ribbons. Image courtesy of David Sumner
The gravestone memorial to Robert in St.Andrew's Churchyard in Leyland. Note that the inscription says he died in 1916. All official records say he died in 1915
Robert's grave alongside that of his comrade William Collinge at Canadian Cemetery No.2, Neuville-St.Vaast