RFA West Lancs Bdes
895614 CPL. J. W. HOLLAND. R.F.A.
John William Holland (known as Jack) was born on 4 November 1884 in Shoreditch, and baptised at Hoxton St John on 21 December. He had a twin brother, Thomas Walter Holland. Their father was Thomas Samuel Holland (b. 1854 in Islington), a building contractor. His mother was Emma Louisa Ansell (b. 1851 in Farringdon). Tom and Emma were married in 1883 and the twins were born the following year. They also had a daughter, Edith (b. 1894). In the early 1890s the family had moved out of the City to Leyton in the East End and in 1901, they were living at 31 Crescent Road, Leyton. Jack was working as a bricklayer’s labourer but his brother Tom had joined the Royal Field Artillery. He didn’t stick at it though, as he bought himself out just a year later.
Jack, however, also joined the Army, but the Royal Garrison Artillery, not the RFA. He enlisted in February 1902 and was assigned service number 9929. Later that year, he was posted to Malta and he served there for just over 5 years. He was then at home for a year before being posted to Sierra Leone at the beginning of 1909. He came back to England in November 1909 and then remained in the reserves until February 1914, at which point he had completed 12 years’ service.
Jack re-enlisted, this time in the Royal Field Artillery, probably in 1915. He was given a new service number, 895614, and promoted to Corporal. His service number suggests he was posted to the Divisional Ammunition Column of either 54th (East Anglian) or 69th (2/East Anglian) Division. However, his Medal Index Card doesn’t indicate service abroad before 1916 (so he wasn’t with 54th Division). The infantry brigades of 69th Division were used for home defence but I’m not sure how the artillery units were deployed. It’s possible that given Jack’s long service in the artillery he was used in some sort of training capacity.
However he was deployed, in the autumn of 1916 he was in Eastbourne, where he married Lily Page (b. 1886 in Eastbourne).
In the summer of 1917, D/276 compliment of guns was increased from 4 to 6 so Jack may have been in the gun crews associated with the new guns, in which case he would have fought at Passchendaele and Cambrai, and in 1918 in the defence of Givenchy and Festubert.
During May 1918, the Brigade remained near Givenchy but there were no more attacks and on 27 May they were relieved from the line and withdrew to bivouac at Bois des Dames. They moved back into the line between 9-12 June and between 13-20 June they supported a number of infantry raids. Throughout July, August and September they engaged in harassing fire, mainly by night. Some relatively minor infantry raids were mounted but the action was mainly to disrupt the enemy and prevent any counterattack. Jack Holland died on 21 July 1918 at No 1 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, at Pernes, of wounds received in action. He was 33 years old.
Service No: 895614
Date of Death: 21/07/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: V. F. 15.
Cemetery: PERNES BRITISH CEMETERY
Additional Information: Husband of Lily Holland, of 77 Bourne Street, Eastbourne.
14967 BQMS T. W. HOLLAND. R.F.A.
Jack’s twin brother Tom had flirted briefly with the Artillery, having enlisted in 1901 but then bought himself out a little more than a year later. However, he re-enlisted at the outbreak of War, on 11 September 1914. He was assigned service number 14967 and posted to “D” Battery of 80th Brigade. 80Bde was split up in 1916 and “D”Bty became attached to 81Bde. These artillery (howitzer) brigades came under orders of 17th (Northern) Division. 17th Division landed in France in July 1915, and Tom’s MIC indicates he landed in France on 14 July. 17th Division then fought on the Somme in 1916 (Battles of Albert and Delville Wood), the battles of Arras and Passchendaele in 1917, and then in all the major engagements of 1918. Tom was clearly a very capable soldier, being promoted to Sergeant and then Battery Quartermaster Sergeant. While on home leave back in Leyton in February 1917, Tom married Florence Alice Partington (b. 1887 in Leyton), and later that year they had a daughter, Mavis Vera. Tom survived the War and returned to Leyton where he was a house painter. He died in 1950.