RFA West Lancs Bdes
680617 DVR. J. HOLMES. R.F.A.
Joseph Holmes was born in May 1895 in Preston. He had a twin brother, Henry. Their father was Henry Holmes (b. 1863 in Preston), a joiner. Their mother was Annie Burke (b. 1864 in Bishops Castle, Shropshire). Henry and Annie were married in 1887 and they had 8 children, though they lost two in infancy. The survivors were: William (b. 1888), Nelly (b. 18980), James (b. 1893), then Joe and Henry, then Leonard (b. 1903). In 1911, the family lived at 3 Carnarvon Road, Preston. Joe and Henry both worked as packers for a Rubber Heel Company.
Enlistment papers have survived for Henry Holmes showing that he joined the Royal Artillery on 7 April 1915, so I presume Joe signed up on the same day. However, Henry failed the medical inspection and was discharged as medically unfit in June 1915. Joe, meanwhile, was posted to “A” Battery of 286 Brigade and was later assigned service number 680617.
After training, the Brigades left for France in early 1917 and were involved in the heavy fighting to defend the town of Armentières, on the French-Belgian border. In July 1917 they suffered their first attack by the new mustard gas. In late September the Brigade was relieved from the front line and withdrew for a period of training, and returned to the line at Langemark about 35km north of Armentières, not far from the small village of Passchendaele, which would be the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the War. On 9 October 286 Brigade returned to action engaging in harassing and destructive fire on enemy strongpoints, but also suffering their heaviest losses of the war so far, with many soldiers being gassed. Joseph Holmes was wounded around this time and died of his wounds at 47th Casualty Clearing Station (Dozinghem) on 15 October 1917. He was 22 years old.
286 Brigade was to lose over 300 men before the end of the month, killed and wounded – almost half their full complement.
Service No: 680617
Date of Death: 15/10/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, "A" Bty. 286th Bde.
Grave Reference: XII. F. 3.
Cemetery: DOZINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Henry and Annie Holmes, of 3 Carnarvon Road, Preston, Lancs.
The other Holmes brothers also served (or attempted to). James enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 1 September 1914 but was discharged on medical grounds just over a month later. William enlisted in the same Regiment in February 1916 and was assigned service number 23106. He was posted to 6th Battalion. 6Bn L.N.LAN.R. had served in Gallipoli in 1915 but William was sent out to join them after they left Gallipoli – he joined them in Mesopotamia probably in the winter of 1916 or early 1917 as the British resumed their offensive against the Ottoman Empire, and he fought through the rest of the War.