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Herbert Holland

Lance-Corporal Herbert Holland, 200729, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 2nd/4th Battalion

Herbert Holland was born in Horbury in Autumn 1885, and baptised at Horbury St. Peter & St Leonard Church on the 1st November 1885. He was the first child and only son of four children born to Thurlstone railway signalman James Thackray Holland and his wife Annie (nee Cusworth) who married at St John the Divine Church, Horbury Bridge on the 24th May 1885.

In 1891, Herbert Holland was staying in Horbury with his widowed, paternal grandmother, Grace Holland, and four of her children aged between 15 and 23 years of age. His parents, James and Annie Holland, and sister, Mary aged one year, were living in Mirfield where James was working as a railway signal fitter. His other sister, May, was living with her maternal widowed grandmother, Maria Cusworth at Quarry Hill, Horbury. Herbert's father James Thackray Holland died in Spring 1891, at the early age of 27 years.

In 1901, Herbert was 15 years of age and working as a railway shunter, living at Victoria Mill Yard, Horbury Bridge with his widowed mother, Annie, and three sisters, May (born 1887), Mary (born 1890) and Alice (born Spring 1894, some three years after James Thackray Holland’s death). Herbert’s eldest sister, May, died aged only 19 years in 1906, and by 1911 Herbert was living in a two-roomed home at 5, Baines Mill Yard, Horbury Bridge with his mother and two sisters. At the time, he was working at the local railway wagon works as a wheel dresser’s striker.

On the 9th September 1916, at Ossett Holy Trinity Church, 31 year-old Herbert Holland of 19, Westfield Road, Horbury, a private in 2/4 KOYLI, married 30 year-old spinster Annie Taylor, of 37, Springstone Avenue, Ossett. The couple do not appear to have had any children from their short marriage. Herbert’s mother, Annie Holland died in late 1919 aged 52.

Herbert Holland’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted in Ossett. He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals. He did not serve overseas before the 31st December 1915 and therefore did not qualify for the 1914/15 Star.

The 2nd/4th Battalion of KOYLI was formed at Wakefield on the 30 September 1914 as a second line unit. On the 1st March 1915, they moved to Bulwell and attached to 187th Brigade in 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division. They moved again in April 1915 to Strensall, York and then on in May to Beverley, going on in November to Gateshead, January 1916 to Larkhill and in June 1916 to Flixton Park near Bungay, Suffolk. The formation moved again in October 1916 to Wellingborough and landed at Le Havre on the 15 January 1917.

When Herbert Holland died on the 4th April 1918, 2/4 KOYLI and others from 62 Division were out of the front line. It is likely therefore that Lance-Corporal Holland died from wounds received in the fighting at Rossignol Wood on the 27th March 1918.

The main attack by the Germans was unleashed on the Third and Fifth British armies that were holding the Line further to the south of Arras. In these sectors, the German forces soon made considerable advances on a wide front, driving back the British forces several miles (particularly in the Fifth Army area) and, by the 23rd March, considerable gaps appeared in the retreating British front line. On the same day, the 62nd (West Riding) Division, was transferred to the orders of Third Army and, on the 24th March, they received instructions that within the next 24 hours they would have to move to help fill a substantial gap in the British front line in the Third Army sector, near Bucquoy.

"Amongst those hurrying south had been the men of the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division. A Territorial Army formation, which at the start of Kaiserschlact had been holding the line some seven miles north of Arras in the Acheville and Arleux sectors. The Division had begun to make its journey southwards on the 23rd of March and had eventually reached the town of Bucquoy by a series of night marches by the 26th. Attached to Fifth Army’s Fourth Corps, the division, consisting of the customary three brigades of infantry and supporting artillery and transport units had been tasked with providing a rearguard in the line at Bucquoy for the depleted British formations that had been retreating through the old Somme battlefield.

By late evening of the 26th March, the Division’s 187th Brigade, consisting of the 2nd/4th, and 5th Battalions of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry had taken up a defensive flank in a labyrinth of old trenches in the Bucquoy-Puisieux line, on the extreme right of Fourth Corps facing an enemy held position known as 'Rossignol Wood', from where the brigade had come under heavy machine gun fire.

Expecting an enemy attack at any moment the men of 2/4th and 5th K.O.Y.L.I. had prepared themselves for a fight. Despite a feeling of impending danger the night had passed quietly and without incident, except for some sniping by the enemy; nevertheless, at around 9am the following day large masses of enemy soldiers had been spotted making preparations to attack their position. The O.C. 'B' Company reported them to be massing in a sunken road to his front. He asked urgently for bombs, but no bombs were available. The position was a network of old trenches up which the usual bombing parties might be expected to attack, and without bombs for countering the attacks the defenders were at a great disadvantage.

'B' and 'A' Companies were attacked; the attacks were repeated throughout the day. Twice 'B' Company was driven out of the trenches, and twice it recovered them by counter assault. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the attackers whenever they showed themselves in the open, but when they came bombing up the communication trenches there was no adequate means of opposing them. Desperate fighting had continued until around 4pm when the West Yorkshire positions had finally been shelled out of their positions by artillery and trench mortars, in addition to being bombed by aircraft, and despite a desperate attempt to hold on, the battered 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I. had been forced to retire having lost over a hundred and sixty officers and men.

Later that night the four companies (each consisting of many eighteen and nineteen years old soldiers) of the 5th K.OY.L.I. had moved into the line in readiness for a counter attack, which was to be mounted the following day. 'A' and 'B' Companies of the 5th KOYLI attacked Rossignol Wood assisted by four tanks, after which all four companies retired in readiness for a counter attack on the 28th."

Rossignol Wood

Above: A New Zealand soldier carrying a container of water to the front line through the newly captured Rossignol Wood. Most of the trees have been destroyed by artillery shelling. Photograph taken 10th August 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders.

Lance-Corporal Herbert Holland, aged 28 years, died on the 4th April 1918. He is remembered at the Special Memorial C. 6. at the Grevillers British Cemetery, 2 Pas de Calais, France. Grevillers is a village in the Department of the Pas de Calais, 3 kilometres west of Bapaume.

The village of Grevillers was occupied by Commonwealth troops on 14 March 1917 and in April and May, the 3rd, 29th and 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Stations were posted nearby. They began the cemetery and continued to use it until March 1918, when Grevillers was lost to the German during their great advance. On the following 24 August, the New Zealand Division recaptured Grevillers and in September, the 34th, 49th and 56th Casualty Clearing Stations came to the village and used the cemetery again. After the Armistice, 200 graves were brought in from the battlefields to the south of the village, 40 from an adjoining cemetery made during the German occupation, and some from the following:-

Avesnes-Les-Bapaume German Cemetery, 'near the British huts', which contained the graves of two soldiers from the United Kingdom who died in April 1918.

Bayonet Trench Cemetery, Gueudecourt, which contained the graves of 19 soldiers of the 1st Australian Infantry Battalion who fell on the 5 November 1916.

There are now 2,106 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Grevillers British Cemetery. 189 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 18 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of two casualties, buried in Avesnes-les-Bapaume German Cemetery, whose graves could not be found. The cemetery also contains the graves of seven Second World War airmen, and 18 French war graves.

Within the cemetery stands the Grevillers (New Zealand) Memorial, which commemorates almost 450 officers and men of the New Zealand Division who died in the defensive fighting in the area from March to August 1918, and in the Advance to Victory between 8 August and 11 November 1918, and who have no known grave.

This is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known. The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died.

References:

1. 1918 - World War One in Scarborough - ‘Der Kaiserschlacht’ (The Kaiser’s Battle’)

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site