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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 955
32nd Battalion, Australian Infantry
Who was killed in action on Wednesday, 19th July 1916
Age 27

Buried. Grave IV B 10
Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, Fromelles, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery

Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, Fromelles, Pas de Calais, France1

Arnold Holmes Arnold Holmes was born in New Lenton, Notts in 1889 2, the fourth child and son of John (b. 1859, Weston, Otley, Yorkshire) and Eva Holmes (b. 1857, West Vale, Halifax, Yorkshire née Pratt). The family moved to New Lenton in about 1889 and, in 1901, was living at 9 Maxwell Street, Lenton where John was self-employed as a coal merchant3. Arnold had been born soon after their arrival. In June 1910, John, with sons Eric and Arnold, left England for Western Australia4. By 1911, Eva was living at 3 Wollaton Road, Beeston, with her two youngest children, Sarah and Lewis, and her eldest son Joseph, who was trading there as a master butcher5. Later that year, Eva, Joseph, Lewis and Sarah sailed to Western Australia to join the others in the family who had arrived in the previous year6. Harold married and took a job as a compositor in Bradford before also emigrating to Western Australia, with his family in 19137. Later, Joseph went to America where he married, before moving back to Western Australia with his family8.

By 1915, Arnold was working as a warder and living at Cottesloe Beach, midway between Perth and Fremantle but, on 8 July 1915 he joined the Australian Infantry at Perth, to join the War in Europe. He was assigned to 32nd Battalion, part of 8th Brigade which, after initial training, embarked from Adelaide aboard HMAT Geelong on 18th November 1915 for Suez and further training in Egypt9. In June 1916, 8th Brigade, along with 14th and 15th Brigades, all now part of the 5th Australian Division, relocated to Flanders to take over from the 4th Australian Division. In the main, it was a very inexperienced unit which had only the briefest introduction to the rigours and horrors of the Western Front before it was called upon to take part in the action at Fromelles in Northern France. They were to go into action alongside the British 61st Division which had only slightly more battlefield experience.

In the early evening of 19 July 1916, the two infantry divisions attacked a 4,000 yard section of the German frontline centred on a notorious strongpoint called the "Sugar Loaf". Advancing over unfavourable ground, in clear view of resolute and expectant defenders, positioned behind wire much of which was still intact despite a seven-hour bombardment that preceded the attack, with enemy machine guns positioned in concrete strong points, supported by strong reserves in concrete blockhouses. Facing these defences, it was inevitable that the attackers suffered terrible casualties in a matter of minutes. The action turned into a bloody catastrophe with both Divisions suffered terrible casualties - 79 officers and over 1400 from the 61st and over three times that number - the 178 officers and 5,500 men - from the 5th Australian Division. Tragically, no tactical advantages resulted from the action and it remains the worst day in Australian military history10.

The site of the German defensive line attacked by Australian forces during the Battle of Fromelles, is now an Australian Memorial Park. A particularly poignant feature there, is the "Cobbers" sculpture, by Peter Corley from Melbourne, Australia. The park and sculpture were dedicated at a ceremony on 5th July 1998. The figure carrying his comrade is based on Second Lieutenant Simon Fraser, one of many Australian soldiers known to have gone out to bring back wounded comrades11.

After the Armistice, the Graves Concentration Units were set up to clear the battlefields and to bring in the huge number of temporary burials into the more formal military cemeteries that remain such a poignant feature of the Flanders landscape today, all carefully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Despite the careful work by these units. many bodies remained undetected. In Australia, where Fromelles is far from forgotten - a reminder of the suffering and incompetence of the Western Front as many there see it - the memory of the battle's 'missing' remained. One man who took a particular interest in the battle was Lambis Englezos, a school teacher from Victoria. From his careful research, which had started in the late 1980s, he became convinced that many Australian dead still lay undiscovered. His painstaking investigations, assisted by a small group of likeminded individuals, began to realise that many of the British and Australian dead had been buried by the Germans. Specifically, the team identified a site at Pheasant Wood believed to be where 400 had been buried. Subsequently, a major archaeological project, led by a team from Oxford Archaeology, excavated the site, yielding 250 individuals for eventual reburial and over 6000 artifacts for additional research and to assist with identification. DNA samples from the burials were also taken to attempt cross-matching with known descendents of the missing, with 94 positive matches achieved in the first year12. Private Holmes was amongst those identified.

Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, created specifically for the reburial of the dead from Pheasant Wood, was completed in July 2010 and dedicated on the 19th of that month. It was the first new war cemetery to be built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in fifty years. Within the cemetery there are 219 Australians of which 75 are unidentified, 2 unidentified British soldiers and 29 entirely unidentified soldiers13.

Arnold's younger brother, Sergeant Lewis John Holmes, also served at Gallipoli and in France, where he was awarded the Military Medal before he was finally able to rejoin the rest of the family in Western Australia where they each lived out their lives. Joseph Holmes, their eldest brother, served with the Australian Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Perth during the Second World War and died while serving, in June 1943.

1The photograph of Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Nottingham Registration District in Q3/1889 (Ref 7b 255)
3Lenton, Notts, 1901 Census, Piece 3164 Folio 165
Arnold's siblings were Joseph Henry (c1885-1943), Harold (c1886-1968), Eric (1887-1958), Sarah Louisa (b. c1891), Lewis John (1894-1962) & George (1897-1900)
4They left London on 20 June 1910, on the Otranto, arriving at Fremantle, WA on 12 July (Fremantle WA Passenger Lists, 1897-1963).
5Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20427 RD429 SD3 ED2 Schedule 236
6They arrived at Fremantle, WA on 21 November 1911, on the Cassel out of Bremen(Fremantle WA Passenger Lists, 1897-1963).
7He married Jane Gilliver in 1908, They and their three children left Liverpool on the Belgic on 21 May 1913 (Fremantle WA Passenger Lists, 1897-1963).
8He appears to have married Alice Amelia (Pat) Newman (b, 1899, Chelmsford, Essex) in Beaconsfield, Ringold, Iowa, USA on 26 October 1918.
9Details (and photograph) from the Australian War Memorial site - www.awm.gov.au/collection/P09291.169
10More details of the Battle of Fromelles may be found in "The Missing Dead of Fromelles" by Nigel Steel, in "Remembering Fromelles" by Julie Summers (a CWGC Publication)
11More details and images of the memorial are at www.greatwar.co.uk/french-flanders-artois/monument-fromelles-memorial-park.htm
12More details of the search and archeaological investgations may be found in "The Missing Dead of Fromelles" by Nigel Steel and "Uncovering the Fallen" by Louise Loe, both in "Remembering Fromelles", compiled by Julie Summers (a CWGC Publication)
13Based on details from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/5001073/FROMELLES%20(PHEASANT%20WOOD)%20MILITARY%20CEMETERY

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