1887 - 11th March 1915 (age 28)
2nd Bn Yorkshire Regiment
Harry was a native of Northallerton, and as a boy he was a member of
the Parish Church Choir there and at one time of the Northallerton Temperance
Band. He later came to live in Sowerby and was attached to Thirsk Post
Office as rural postman to Kirby Knowle. Being a good musician, he was
a solo cornet player in Thirsk Town Band.
Harry was on the Reserves, having served in Egypt and India and he was re-called at the outbreak of war, going overseas on 5th October 1914 with 2nd Bn. Yorkshire Regiment. During the First Battle of Ypres, he wrote home saying that a piece of shell had damaged his tunic but had not hurt him.
The first of many attempts to break the trench warfare deadlock was the Battle of Neuve Chappelle in 1915. On 10th March, fifty battalions of British and Dominion soldiers attacked the village. Their huge superiority in numbers enabled them to quickly overrun the German lines, but then a pause gave the enemy time to organise a line of defence. Further attacks were less successful and on 13th March the attack was called off with the loss of over 12,000 men. Harry’s battalion was involved, on 10th March setting out from billets at Laventie to assemble in reserve lines before advancing to support trenches at 9am. At 2.00pm they moved across British lines into German trenches and by dark they were well forward but were then checked by two German redoubts (fortified strong points). On 11th March the Germans made a counter attack, which was completely stopped, and later the Germans crept into a trench where bombers and riflemen attacked them. Harry’s battalion experienced losses caused by cross fire from the redoubts and by enemy shells. When the attack was called off, they would have to withdraw under fire across the ground they had taken. From 10th-14th March they lost 90 other ranks (non-officers) killed, 183 wounded and 24 missing.
Le Touret Memorial, where Harry Holmes is remembered
Harry’s widowed mother learned of his death when a comrade, Private Harry Pickering who had fought by his side and was acquainted with him in India, wrote to Harry’s married sister, Mrs A. Foster of Northallerton informing her of her brother’s death and adding:
I have lost a chum who cannot be replaced.
Harry’s death is recorded as 12th March, he is remembered as Henry Holmes, Private 8028, on panel 12 of the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais along with over 13,000 who fell in that area before 25th September 1915 and who have no known grave.
The information on this page was compiled by Steve Billings.
Information about Harry (Henry) Holmes on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Information about Harry (Henry) Holmes on the War Graves Photographic Project website
Part of the St Oswald's Church website