The Holman brothers of East Ham

Posted on: 6, October, 2019
William Holman, Thomas Holman, Arthur Holman

Every day on the British Army Ancestors Facebook page I take time to commemorate a British soldier. This post will look at three of the men I have remembered recently; from left to right, brothers William Holman, Thomas Holman and Arthur Holman.

William Holman

When the 1911 census was taken, the Holman family was living in East Ham and, with the exception of the oldest child who had been born in Limehouse, the other children had all been born in East Ham. There are seven Holman children listed on that census return and two more had already moved out; seven children and five of those, boys: Arthur (aged 17), Edward (16), William (14), Thomas (13), Albert (12), John (7).

William is the boy on the left and whilst the photo is undated, knowing that he served with the Royal Berkshire Regiment and had the regimental number 18040 places his joining date to May 1915. If this photo was taken in 1915 he would have been about 18 years old, although he looks younger.

Soldiers Died in the Great War records that William was living in East Ham and that he enlisted in Canning Town. Why he joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment when his brothers joined the Essex Regiment will probably never be known, but he was overseas by the 16th December 1915, posted as a draft to the 1st Battalion, one of the regiment’s two regular battalions, which had been in France since the 13th August 1914. On the 6th March 1916 his name appeared in a list of wounded men published in The Times, and given that other rank casualties were generally published between four and six weeks after the actual event, this suggests that he was probably wounded in late January or early February 1916.

My guess is that William was returned to the UK and spent some time recuperating in one or more hospitals before he was deemed fit enough for service again. This time he was posted to the 7th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment and it was whilst serving with this battalion in Salonika that he was “accidentally killed” according to the casualty list in which his name appeared on the 26th January 1918. The Soldiers Effects Register confirms that his death was the result of an accident on the 8th January 1918, and in due course Emily Holman was sent £10, 10 shillings and 10  pence as money owing to him at the time of his death. Later she was sent an additional £12 war gratuity, this sum based on his length of service.

William Holman is buried in the Salonika Lembet Road Military Cemetery in Greece, one of 1683 casualties from the First World War buried here.

Thomas Albert Ambrose Holman

The youngest of the three brothers to die, 19533 Pte Thomas Holman served with the 1st Essex Regiment during the First World War, dying of wounds, aged 18, on the 12th July 1916. Thomas is buried in Knightsbridge Cemetery, Mesnil-Martinsart.

Arthur Edward Holman

19534 Pte Arthur Edward Holman also served with the 1st Essex Regiment. He and his younger brother Thomas volunteered together, served together and would ultimately gives their lives for King and Country within a week of each other.

If you compare the photos of the two brothers it is clear that they were taken in the same location and probably on the same day. That day was almost certainly in 1915, probably the spring or summer judging by the flowers blossoming in the background, and by December 1915 both the brothers were overseas in Egypt and would ultimately sail from there for France, disembarking at Marseilles on the 20th March 1916.

Both brothers survived the 1st Essex Regiment’s actions on the 1st July 1916 on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme but Arthur’s luck ran out four days later and he was killed in action on the 5th July. He was 22 years old and is buried in the same Knightsbridge Cemetery at Mesnil-Martinsart as his brother Thomas who would die of wounds exactly one week later.

Even one hundred years on, the grief of the Holman family at losing three young brothers, three young sons, can only be imagined.

One response to “The Holman brothers of East Ham”

  1. Greatuncles says:

    I have just come across this very emotional posting. The three brothers are my great uncles. My father was named after one of his uncles William Holman.

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