The Holmes family was a vital component of the local population, having been present in Hoylake since the 1770’s, where they always worked as artisans and never as fishermen. The three Holmes soldiers on the Grange Hill Memorial were related to me via my great grandmother Louisa Holmes (1886-1960) who is pictured below with her husband George Cookson (1885-1955) who served in the Royal Field Artillery during the Great War:
George and Louisa Holmes shared a grandfather, Edward Holmes (1815-1891), a tailor, and were, therefore, first cousins. George’s Parents were George Holmes (1853-1931) and Cecile or Cecilia Lee (1853-1928) who married in Everton in 1877. George junior was the fourth of seven children, three of whom died in infancy. His brother Harry became a professional golfer in Denbigh. George was educated at the Hoylake National Schools and then followed his father into the building trade and became a bricklayer. He married Winifred Wilkinson (1880-1960) in 1905 and they had three children – Harry (1906-?), Arthur (1911-1981) and Frank (1912-1960).
George joined the army early in the war in Birkenhead. His unit became part of the 53rd (Welsh) Division, which contained many Wirral men, who were members of 1/4th Cheshire Regiment. It left Britain for Turkey between 14th and 19th July; it passed through Alexandria between 25th and 30th July and Lemnos between 29th July and 7th August. The division landed at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 9th August with the aim of relieving the pressure on the ANZACs who were five miles to the south. Incompetent leadership by Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stopford contributed to the failure of the attack and led to a stalemate. The British suffered 15,000 casualties. George was one of them. He died three weeks after the landing, having been shot in the head. His grave must subsequently have been destroyed because his is one of the 20,885 names recorded on the Helles Memorial to the Missing on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Birth: July 1882 in Hoylake
Death: 31st August 1915, died of wounds in Gallipoli aged 33
Addresses: Market Street, Hoylake (91), 1 Elm Terrace, Hoylake (01-11)
Units: 439th Field Company or 2nd/1st Royal Engineers (Cheshire)
Number(s) and Rank: 788 Sapper
Medals: Victory, British War, 1915 Star
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, Turkey: Gallipoli, Helles Memorial, Panels 23-25 or 325-328
Sources: BR, SDGW, MC, BN, Census: 91,01,11
Thomas was the above-mentioned Louisa Holmes’s eldest brother. He was the fourth child of Joseph Holmes (1849-1900) and Susannah Holt (1853-1919), who had ten children altogether. Thomas was, therefore, first cousin to the above George Holmes. Like his mother, Thomas was born in Lowton near Warrington in Lancashire. The family must have lived there until 1880 at the latest. He joined the East Yorkshire Regiment in 1895 and served in India for five years before doing three years in the reserve. He married Alice Worsley (1883-1965) in 1904. She also had been born in Lowton, but had been living in Hoylake, in the home of her aunt, Alice Worsley (1846-?) and her husband, William Holmes (1842-1901), who was Thomas’s uncle.
Thomas was discharged from the army in 1907, but was called up again in August 1914. He joined his old unit which was part of 83rd Brigade, 28th Division. He went to France on 26th December. He was sent home for a while, suffering from pneumonia and returned to the front on 11th March 1915; he was killed twelve days later near Ypres in Belgium. His company commander Major C.P Berthon wrote to Thomas’s widow saying that he was “killed by a rifle bullet … instantly, and (he) suffered no pain whatsoever. He was in the trenches fearlessly doing his duty at the time… Believe me, I am greatly distressed at losing so good a soldier and so brave a man as your husband proved himself to be.” The widowed Alice now had to bring up their three surviving children – Elsie, Edna and Thomas – on her own. Her husband was buried in Wulvergem churchyard. His headstone can be seen above. It bears both his name and that of Private Cook of the Monmouthshire Regiment. The remains of the two soldiers must have become comingled as a result of subsequent damage to the burial ground.
Birth: 6th April 1877 in Lowton, Lancashire
Death: 23rd March 1915, killed in action aged 37
Address: Lee’s Yard Market Street (81), Market Street (91), 11 Evans Road, (11), Walker Street, Hoylake (15)
Unit: “A” Coy. 2nd Bn. East Yorkshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 3/7580 Private
Medals: Victory, British War, 1914-15 Star
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, Belgium: Wulvergem Churchyard, Special Memorial number 8
Sources: BR, SDGW, MC, DA, Census: 81, 91, 11
William was first cousin to the above-mentioned Louisa, George and Thomas Holmes due to their common descent from Edward and Ann Holmes. His parents were Robert Holmes (1855-1932) and Margaret Holt (1856-1928). In fact, William was also maternal cousin to Louisa and Thomas because their mothers were sisters, who had both been born in Lowton, Lancashire. William’s eldest brother, Thomas Edward, had been born there in about 1876, but all subsequent siblings were born in Hoylake, indicating that the family had returned to their ancestral home by 1880 at the latest, just like his cousin Thomas’s family. William had a total of four brothers and four sisters. His father was a gardener and he became a plasterer. According to The Deeside Advertiser, by the time he was called up, he had been working for a Liverpool firm, but his service records state that he had been employed by J.H. Warbrick of Llanarmon in North Wales. He served with the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) during the Boer War and married Sarah Ellen Webster (1879-1944) from Liverpool at West Kirby Registry Office on 14th March 1903. They had six children before the war – Thomas William (1902), Jessie Gwendoline (1904), George Eric (1906), Elsie Winifred (1909), Dorothy May (1910) and Walter Edward (1912). A seventh, Arthur, who was born five days after his death and died in Wallasey in 1997.
William attested on 29th November 1915 in Hoylake, but was judged to be a Class B recruit due to his suffering from haemorrhoids and having bad teeth. He was, therefore, placed on the reserve. He was finally called up on 16th June 1916 and was recorded as being 5’ 7½” tall and having a 35½” chest with a 3” expansion. His physical development was recorded as being “good”. Clearly, he was needed on the Somme and was, therefore, transferred from the reserve to a New Army unit, the 7th (Service) Battalion of the South Lancashires. His relative maturity and military experience must have been greatly appreciated in a unit made up of young Kitchener recruits. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 14th October 1916, which, if The Deeside Advertiser is correct, was a week before he arrived in France. William was killed in action exactly three weeks after arriving at the front, on the second day of the final British attack on the Somme, during the phase known as the Battle of Ancre. He was probably involved in a raid on some German positions called Stump Road and Lucky way, just south of Grandcourt, where the 7th South Lancashires, as part of 56th Brigade, were held up by barbed wire. William was initially reported missing. His death was not confirmed for another year. The Deeside Advertiser said that two of his brothers were serving at that time and that one of them had been gassed. His widow received his commemorative plaque in March 1922.
Birth: 18th July 1882 in Hoylake
Death: 14th November 1916, killed in action aged 34
Address: Chapel Row (91), The Nook, Grove Place (01), 5 Hazel Road 11), 55 Lee Road, Hoylake (16)
Unit: 7th Bn. Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment)
Number: and Rank 22566, Lance Corporal
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, France: Somme, Grandcourt Road Cemetery C.24
Sources: BR, SDGW, SR, MC, DA, Census: 91, 01, 11