Frederick William Holmes VC

b. 15/09/1889 Bermondsey, London. d. 22/10/1969 Port Augusta, Australia.

Frederick William Holmes (1889-1969) was born at 23, Abbey Street, Bermondsey, Middlesex on 7th September 1891. His father was Thomas George Holmes, a carman. His mother was Ann Mary nee Hymns. They were married in St Olave’s, Southwark on 19th November 1875. Frederick had three brothers and a sister, and the family moved around a lot when he was a child, between Bermondsey and Camberwell.

Frederick W Holmes VC

He was educated at Bermondsey London Board School and was a member of the Boys’ Brigade. He enlisted on 28th September 1907 giving his date of birth as 27th September 1889. Little is known about Frederick’s early service, though by 1914, he was serving in Ireland. He married Violet Imelda nee Daley there in May 1914. They went on to have seven children – Victor, Sylvia Violet, Leola Eunice, Patricia Mary, Maureen Francis, Frederick William and Terence Michael, between 1915 and 1926.

He had been a reservist for a fortnight when recalled on 9th August 1914. He arrived in France a week later on 16th August. On 26th August 1914, at Le Cateau, Lance-Corporal Holmes carried a wounded man (Bugler H N Woodcock), whose legs had been broken, out of the trenches under heavy fire. It is reported he carried the man for 3.5km. Woodcock was killed later in the War. He later helped to drive a gun out of action by taking the place of a driver who was wounded. At one point, he had to use his bayonet to escape. He eventually met up with a battery, but didn’t rejoin his Battalion until 30th August.

He was gazetted for the Victoria Cross on 25th November 1914 and also awarded the French Medaille Militaire for taking a machine gun to a platoon of struggling French soldiers on the Aisne earlier that month. He had been wounded in the ankle a month earlier on 14th October, but refused to have his foot amputated at a hospital in Lille and was evacuated to England on 30th November, where he received treatment until June 1915. His VC was presented to him by King George V at Buckingham Palace a few months earlier on 13th January.

He transferred into 1st Garrison Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment on 6th October 1915 and undertook recruitment duties until sailing for India with the Battalion on Christmas Eve 1915. He was now a Sergeant and was commissioned into the Yorkshire Regiment on 14th March 1917 and appointed Assistant Instructor at the Officer Training School at Kirkee, India. He was later posted to Belgaum from where he commanded 200 men to join the 9th Worcestershire at Basra, Mesopotamia in July 1917. He became Assistant Adjutant, but fractured his skull in October 1917 and was evacuated to Bombay, and then England by January 1918, where he needed treatment for the remainder of the war.

He was then employed in the Infantry Record Office and served in Ireland during the Rebellion before being discharged to the Reserve on 20th August 1921. He settled in Sydenham and started his own business, which sadly failed. He was forced to sell his medals and scrapbook during the 1920s to make ends meet. The scrapbook was found by a Peckham scrap dealer in 1962 and returned to Frederick.

On 27th September 1939, he attained the age limit of liability to recall and ceased to belong to the Reserve of Officers. Despite this, he was appointed Lieutenant and Assistant Recruiting Officer on 15th April 1941 at the Royal Artillery Record and Pay Office in Sidcup, Kent. He also served in several administrative appointments until he was taken ill in June 1943 and discharged. He then served in the Observer Corps until the end of the War. At least two of his sons served during the conflict.

After the war, he became Chief Spares Order Clerk with Watford Electric and Engineering Company until 1957, when ill health forced him to leave work. He was a champion for the rights of Victoria Cross recipients. He emigrated to Australia with his wife in 1960, and he was followed by two of his daughters and a son. He died in Port Augusta Hospital, South Australia on 22nd October 1969. He was buried in his wife’s grave in Stirling North Garden Cemetery in Port Augusta. In addition to his VC, he received the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, George VI Coronation Medal of 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal of 1953 and the French Medaille Militaire. His VC (without the other medals) was sold at auction at Morton & Eden on 3rd October 2003 for £92,000 and is in private ownership.