Bertie Holmes was born in Leicester in 1894 and baptised on 3rd June at St Lukes, Leicester, to William and Sarah Ann (nee Facer).
In 1901 he was living at 18 Union St., Rugby with his parents and 2 siblings. William was a bricklayer’s labourer.
By 1911 Bertie was with his with his mother at 26 New St., New Bilton. His profession was given as “Bore-maker Cylinder” and he was aged 16. Sarah Ann, a char woman, is listed as married, although William is not with the family. Perhaps he had died, as in early 1912 she married George Etherington.
Bert must have signed up at the start of the war, joining the 1st battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (service no. 1664) a letter written to the Rugby Advertiser on 24 July 1915 states that he had been in France from November 1914:
A REQUEST FOR RAZORS.
Pte H Holmes, 1664 B Company, 1st Royal Warwicks, serving with the British Expeditionary Force, whose home is at 47 Wood Street, Rugby, has written us stating that there are twelve or more men in the regiment to his knowledge without razors, and if any of our readers have old razors that will shave the men referred to would be glad of them. We understand that all men have razors served out to them as part of their equipment, but apparently the men Pte Holmes refers to have lost theirs. Our correspondent informs us that he went out to France on November 11th last year, and has been in hospital twice. He adds:” We are out of the trenches now for a longer rest. Our regiment took part in that affair on July 6th. We were called up on the night we were going to be relieved, but had to stop owing to the Germans keeping on counter-attacking. The Old Warwicks helped to hold them back well.”
Another report on 18th September 1915 records a letter sent to his old schoolmaster at Murray School:
“I have been in hospital myself with gas poison, but it was not very serious. The first time they gassed us was about the 27th of April, and we lost a terrible number of men. The time I got the gas was last Whit-Monday morning (it was not so bad that time). The gas seems to take all the use out of your body, make your eyes smart and run, and your throat sore. It is rotten stuff. We had only got respirators then, but now we have got gas helmets, which are very good, as no gas can get through for two hours. So now we are prepared for it, but on the first occasion we had nothing at all for it. The next time we stepped into the mud again was on the 8th of July, when the Rifle Brigade took the trenches alongside of the Yser Canal. The order came up for us to reinforce the Lancashires because the Germans continued to make counter-attacks. On the 10th they made seven attacks, but they were no good, because a German officer and 26 men were made prisoners, and he said they were all that were left of 600. I have met both lots of Rugby Territorials. We have had the Infantry on the left of us in the trenches, where we are now, and we have had the Battery firing on the trenches in front of us.”
He would have fought in most of the battles on the western front and was awarded the DCM with the following citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Acting as a company runner for two years, he has been in the majority of the actions in which the battalion has taken part. He has always proved himself most reliable, and on many occasions has taken messages through very heavy fire, displaying singular devotion to duty.
He died in the aftermath of Passchendaele. His death is “officially accepted to be” on 20th November 1917.
His name is listed on the Arras Memorial.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM