Friday 2 December 2016

8135 Sgt Charles Holmes, 2nd Royal Warwickshire Regiment

I am currently reading In Good Company by The Hon William Fraser DSO, MC; 2nd, and later 1st, Battalion, Gordon Highlanders.  Contrary to regulations, the then Captain Fraser kept a diary of his time in the trenches. Pen & Sword have recently re-published these diary and letter extracts and they make fascinating reading.  More fascinating still, I think, is that the diary for the early part of 1914 survived at all as it fell into enemy hands and was subsequently liberated by Sgt C Holmes of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment; the subject of this post.  

Writing to Lord Saltoun, William Fraser's father, in May 1915, Sergeant Holmes returned William Fraser's diary and sent with it a covering note. He wrote:


I, Sergt C Holmes, have had this (Diary) in my possession ever since the 27th October 1914. How I became in possession of it I will relate to you. 

On the morning of the 27th October 1914 I was ordered to go and reconnoitre the country. After going about a quarter of a mile I came to a farm house which was occupied by civilians. I questioned him to see if he knew any troops had been locating anywhere around his village. He took me around the back and their I found rifles and packs belonging to the Gordon Highlanders. I made a report of this and then advanced a little further. I had with me 6 men at the time, all of a sudden a report from a machine gun rang out from our front. I at once sent 3 men to each flank. I crept on my hands and my knees. The machine gun opened fire on to the left flank. During the time they they was firing my right flank I crawled up and surprised them. I myself got up and rushed forward. There were 4 Germans with the gun. We took everything from them. By the time I had searched them my right flank had got up so they was well surrounded. This was where I found a wallet containing this Diary. I have saved it all the time, carrying it with me in all engagements I have been in.

Well Sir, it was on the 16th may 1915 I got wounded and still I clung to this diary. I am getting along nicely. I am at a convalescent Home as you see is my address. Hoping you get it safely. I could not send it from France as it was not allowed. So I have stuck to it through thick and thin. Hoping sir your son is still alive. I could not say for his whereabouts myself. Hoping you had had news of him. So Sir, I think I have explained all to you how I became in possession of this valuable Diary.

I am Sir
Your Obedient Servant
Sergt C. Holmes

I have retained the original spelling in the transcription above but broken the text into paragraphs. Lord Fraser's son, the late General Sir David William Fraser GCB, OBE, who edited his father's memoirs did not add any notes about Sergeant Holmes but this must be 8135 Sergeant Charles Holmes.

This man has papers that survive in WO 363 and which show that he was a Yorkshireman from Goole and had originally enlisted on the 4th January 1902 aged 19 years and four months, having already seen service with the 4th (Militia) Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. He had soldiered in India for seven years before being transferred to the Army Reserve in 1910. Recalled as a reservist in 1914, he had arrived in France on the 4th October and received a gunshot wound to his left hand at Festubert on the 16th May 1915. Shortly after, this, and back in England, he returned the war diary to Lord Saltoun.

Charles Holmes returned to France with the 15th Battalion in April 1917 until wounded again; another gunshot wound to the left hand on the 13th May 1917, almost two years to the day since he had received the first wound. This finished the war for him and he returned to England where he was discharged in April 1919.

Charles's papers note that he had married Elizabeth Marshall in 1912 and the couple had two children born in 1913 and 1915. As well as his three campaign medals, Charles had also previously earned the India General Service Medal 1908-1935. 

Charles Holmes's papers can be viewed on Findmypast - subscription required.

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