Joel Holmes VC

b. 1821 Halifax, Yorkshire. d. 27/07/1872 Halifax, Yorkshire.

Joel Holmes (1821-1872) was born sometime in 1821 in Great Comershall, near Halifax, Yorkshire. Sadly, little is known about Joel’s life before or after his Army service, which began when he enlisted with the 84th Regiment of Foot (later York and Lancaster Regiment). Joel found himself posted to quell the Indian Mutiny with his Regiment in 1857.

Joel Holmes VC Grave

On 25th September 1857, Joel was part of the assault on the Char Bagh Bridge in Lucknow, when Captain Francis Cornwallis Maude’s guns (also awarded the VC for this action) came under heavy attack from two enemy guns from the other side of the bridge. A number of Maude’s men were killed or wounded, and Captain Frederick Willis can be quoted on what happened next: “At one of our guns, five men were knocked over in as many seconds. I am happy to say, however, that one of my old company (Private Holmes) was first to volunteer as a “number” at the gun in place of the poor fellow who had been killed; and he remained working at it until it limbered up, for which I recommended him for distinguished conduct. With his and others of my regiment, Maude was able to work his guns bravely and steadily.”

Holmes was recommended for the VC and was gazetted on 18th June 1858, and less than two months later, he was presented with his medal by Queen Victoria at Portsmouth on 2nd August 1858. Sadly, little is known about what happened to Joel following his investiture except that he returned to his native Yorkshire. He settled in Halifax, where he died on 27th July 1872, aged 51. He was buried in All Souls Cemetery, Halifax. His medals are now part of the York and Lancaster Regimental Museum, Rotherham, Yorkshire.