Regular soldier, Sergeant George Holtham, was killed in action on 20th June 1917 serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was 26 years old and had worked for a firm of manufacturing chemists before joining the Army in February 1909.
George was born on 18th April 1891 in Moreton Morrell, Warwickshire to parents Joseph (a traction engine driver) and Eliza Ann (née Bennett) who had married in Moreton Morrell in May 1877. The couple went on to have nine children, of whom five had died by 1911.
George was the seventh of the couple’s known eight children: Mary Matilda (born 1878); Alice (born 1881); Ernest (born 1882); Louie (born 1884); William (1887-1944); Fred (1888-1889), George (born 1891) and Alfred (born and died 1894).
The family moved from Moreton Morrell to Minworth between 1891 and 1894, and then to Holly Cottages, New Street, Castle Bromwich between 1901 and 1911. George attended Castle Bromwich Council School and enlisted in the Army in February 1909.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour notes that on the outbreak of war, in August 1914, he was serving at Scutari in northern Albania. He proceeded with his regiment to France in September 1914 and was wounded at Ypres on 24th October 1914, when he was hit in the small of the back by a bullet, which then travelled up to his shoulder before exiting.
The Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser of 28th November 1914 included extracts from a letter he sent from hospital to his mother in Castle Bromwich explaining the circumstances of his injury:
We had driven the enemy out of a wood and a few of the men and myself stopped to dress the hurts of several wounded Germans. After doing so we were walking away from them, when they opened fire at us, wounding some and killing others. That is how the Germans pay you for your kindness. The men who were not hit went back and killed the whole lot of them.After being wounded I was carried to a house where I lay for two days with an officer and another man. The man died. The officer did as much as he could for me as he was wounded also, by giving me water to drink. After being there the two days we were picked up by the medical corps, who took us to the hospital at the base and finally I arrived here where I am getting good attention and everything you could wish for. When my wound is healed I shall have to undergo a period of convalescence and after that I shall have a short furlough, which I hope will come about Christmas. I am very weak and thin from loss of blood, and it will take me a long time to get my strength back.Well, war is a terrible thing. No one knows what it is like unless he has experienced it; what with men falling on your right and left, dead cattle lying about the streets, buildings all blown up and in flames, shells dropping all around, bullets flying over your head, and hundreds more things. It is one of the most awful things you could see or imagine.
George was wounded again in November 1915, and then gassed in December 1916. Following recovery in January 1917 he returned to France and was killed in action on 20th June 1917.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He is also commemorated locally at Castle Bromwich, on the village memorial, and on the plaque inside St Mary & St Margaret’s Church. Poignantly, the village memorial, the altar of remembrance on the village green, was unveiled on 11th November 1927 by the Dowager Duchess of Bradford and George’s elder brother, Naval Stoker, William Holtham.
William was born on 29th June 1887 and became a farm labourer. He enlisted in the Militia in July 1904, being discharged in December the same year and then joining the Royal Navy in November 1905, signing on for a term of 5 years, plus 7 with the Reserves. He was transferred to the Reserves in November 1910 but recalled in July 1914 and then served until 1918 before being invalided out with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), which was attributed to his war service. In 1939, he was still living in New Street, Castle Bromwich, described as a “Disabled Royal Naval Pensioner.” He died in 1944, aged 56.