Son of James and Emma Holt, of the High Street, Ticknall, Derbyshire.
James was born in 1879 at
Ticknall, Derbyshire, to parents James, occupation a Waggoner employed on the Calke Abbey Estate, Ticknall, and Emma, occupation
being recorded in the 1881 Census as being involved in Lace Beading.
1891 Census records that during this year and aged 13 years, James had found employment with one William Woodward, a Farmer
residing at Main Street, Stanton-by-Bridge, Derbyshire, as a Farm Servant.
1901, James father had died so it would appear he moved back to the family home now recorded as Highway Side, Ticknall, possibly
to support his mother whose occupation is recorded as that of a Charwoman. James had also changed his vocation at this period
to that of a Blacksmith/Striker, as the terminology would suggest an apprentice Blacksmith involved in the Smithing process.
No other details can be found in the Census
records post 1901 however a newspaper article reporting James death dated October 1915 records that prior to the War he had
found employment with Rowland Meyrick of Hall Orchards as a Gardener and was a married man.
Recruitment & Attestation
James attested for service at Wetherby Town Hall on or about the 31st August
1914. The terms of enlistment were a Short Service obligation, i.e. three years with the Colours however it was also stated
that if the War lasted longer than three years, the recruit would be retained until the cessation of hostilities.
As the waited to enlist, Army protocol dictated that had the prospective
received Notice and understood its meaning and who gave the Notice to them. On confirmation by the potential recruit, Army
Form B. 2065 was first signed by Rowland Meyrick, the issuer of the Notice before recruitment could commence. The latter had
proved to be very brisk, principally due to the efforts of a number of individuals, but it was Mr. Rowland Meyrick of Hall
Orchards, a Land Agent for the Montague estates, that was the major protagonist encouraging many a young Wetherby man, and
those in his employ such as James, "to take the King's shilling."
A newspaper article dated September 1914 provides an insight as to his activities as an
unpaid Recruitment Officer:
and night he worked with the greatest enthusiasm and wherever young men were, in the cottage, in the harvest field and street,
there he was to be found, exercising his persuasive powers and the young men answered nobly to his call.
Some men at first however, had their reservations on joining the Colours;
One young fellow, anxious to enlist,
was troubled about throwing up his work and he went to Mr. Meyrick. Would he guarantee him work when he returned home? The
answer was thoroughly satisfactory, and the young fellow is probably now clad in khaki. That is the way to get recruits."
Concerns prior to enlistment
were also raised for the soldiers dependants, therefore, Wetherby Steeplechase Committee made the following offer to both
stimulate and encourage recruitment. A further newspaper article dated September 1914 declared:
"The Wetherby Steeplechase Committee have announced that they will
give 1 shilling a week each to the wives of men who have joined the Colours, and any others volunteering in the town, in order
to augment the Army allowance while they are on service."
Agreeing that he now understood the terms of his engagement, James now declared that all
his answers to questions declared on the Army Form were true and that he was willing to fulfill the engagements made. On the
signing of the document, the latter was witnessed by John McEvitt, a former soldier who had served with the 1st Battalion,
Connaught Rangers and a veteran of the Boer War. Former Colour Sergeant McEvitt in civilian life, performed the roll of Caretaker
of the Conservative Club located in the Market Place, who, although recorded in the 1911 Census as an Army Pensioner, fulfilled
the roll of Acting Recruitment Sergeant.
preliminary medical examination was now conducted by Lieutenant Harry Winstanley Shadwell of the Royal Army Medical Corps
to determine vital statistics such as height, weight, expansion of the chest etc. Deemed 'fit' as the vast majority
of men were at this early stage of enlistment, the final signature that would approve the man for military service was that
of the Approving Officer, 14th Recruiting Area, Colonel Harold P. Ditmas, late Durham Royal Garrison Artillery (Militia).
That final signature would witness over forty-five
recruits from the locality joining the ranks of the fledgeling 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the first
service battalion of the Regiment to be raised as a response to the outbreak of the Great War.
In the first week of September, the men prior to leaving for the Regimental
Depot located at York, were entertained to a dinner by the townsfolk of Wetherby. After the event and bidding their farewells,
the men of 'Kitchener's Army' were conveyed to York in a fleet of motor-cars amidst what was described as
"much scenes of jubilation and enthusiasm."
the men, many would never return.
Of The Battalion
9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment was formed at York on the 25th August 1914 and designated a K 1 Battalion
as formed under Lord Kitchener's first 'Call to Arms,' an appeal for 100,000 men to join the Army for 3 years
or for the duration of the War between the ages of 19 and 30 years. The Battalion was contained in the 11th (Northern) Division,
a New Army Division which was formed under Army Order No. 324, published on the 21st August, 1914.
This order approved of the addition to the Army of six divisions, the 8th,
9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th respectively.
9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel George Frend (attached from the 3rd
Battalion, West Yorkshire's), were contained in the 32nd Infantry Brigade that also comprised of the following units:
6th (Service) Battalion,
Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
Battalion, Yorks & Lancs Regiment
(Service) Battalion, West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellingtons)
Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Henry Haggard
Divisional Commander Major-General Frederick Hammersley C.B.
Basic training ensued for the recruits from Wetherby at the Regimental Depot
where they became accustomed to the vagaries of life in the British Army. Possibly the first blow to patriotic 'fervour'
was the issuing of a Serial Number to each man, an individual in civilian life but now a number throughout his service in
the Army. It is of interest to note that the numbers issued to the recruits from Wetherby follow no alphabetical sequence
as is sometimes the case. An analysis therefore conducted of this specific batch of numbers issued reveals that proceeding
James the number 14999 was allocated to Private Percy Shields of Harome, Yorkshire, and Chauffeur to Mr. Rowland Meyrick,
a fellow employee. Percy was to be unfortunately killed in action on the 22nd August 1915 at Galliopli and is now commemorated
on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli. The number issued following on from James Holt, 15001, was subsequently allocated to Private
Thomas Barnes. Thomas, a native of Bickerton was also to be killed in the Dardanelles Campaign aged 31 years. It may just
be possible, certainly in the case of Holt and Shields, that these men enlisted together.
York at this juncture with the Depot processing more men that had answered
the 'Call to Arms' was now fit to bursting point with men. Therefore a move to larger training facilities at Belton
Park, Grantham, was initiated in September by the 9th West Yorkshire's where they were joined by the remainder of the
Following this movement, a second
medical examination, more thorough than the Primary Military Examination that had taken place on Attestation was carried out
in mid October. Many men from Wetherby were discharged due to either being found medically unfit with conditions ranging from
chronic bronchitis to a hernia, or just a lack of general ability. The latter men in Army 'parlance' were "Discharged
not being likely to become an efficient soldier," their departure being confirmed by the Adjutant, Captain Alexander
An analysis of Army Pension Records
reveal that of the men who had enlisted at Wetherby Town Hall in August, 6 were medically discharged who had a direct link
to the town in addition to one man from Kirk Deighton. Some of these discharged men would eventually serve in some military
capacity as the War progressed.
winter of 1914 and the spring of 1915 were most notably wet resulting in the camp at Belton turning into a veritable quagmire.
By the end of the month of February, all ranks had been issued 1914 Pattern Equipment, made under contract in the United States
and despite the constraints of the weather, the training programme proceeded apace.
By late March orders had been issued warning of an impending move away from Lincolnshire.
On the 5th April 1915, the 9th West Yorkshire's, in Brigade, were ordered to entrain at Rugby, the destination being Witley
Camp, near Godalming, Surrey. Departing Belton Park on this date, the Brigade proceeded by route of march via Scalford, Thrussington
and Whetstone reaching Rugby on the 8th. Here the Brigade entrained during the following day after an eventful march. An account
of this may be found in the Green Howards In The Great War by H.C. Wylly. 'The Optimist' as the
recorder of these events is referred to in the account writes:
"Our march on Wednesday took us through Leicester where the Division was accorded
a really wonderful reception; all work was suspended and the streets lined by an enthusiastic and cheering multitude who showered
all kinds of gifts on the troops."
into their new surroundings 'The Optimist' remarked that the change of weather and that of the scenery was
most welcome. He also noted that the extensive heathland and commons so characteristic of the area proved more conducive for
military manoeuvres as the men were about to experience.
camp consisted at this stage of the War primarily of tented accommodation with a few huts but the camp would rapidly expand
and become more permanent as the conflict progressed.
the 1st May, the 11th (Northern) Division played host to two most distinguished visitors, namely His Majesty the King who
was also accompanied by Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War. After inspecting the men, the following Divisional Order
was issued, an extract of which is quoted in Wylly's History:
"His Majesty the King has desired the G.O.C. to convey to the troops
his appreciation of the splendid appearance and steadiness of the men on parade yesterday. His Majesty also remarked on the
good condition of the horses. Finally His Majesty said to the G.O.C., "It has been a very great pleasure to me to see
such a splendid body of men, and I desire you to so inform the troops."
The Battalion would also witness a change in command when Colonel Frend was
replaced by yet another officer from the ranks of the 3rd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel John O'Brien
Minogue. An experienced officer who had risen through the ranks, Minogue had served with a variety of regiments during the
course of his service career however the Colonel did possess an affiliation to the West Yorkshire Regiment dating back to
Towards the end of June there must have
been rumours of an impending move to active service circulating as the American equipment previously issued to the men was
replaced by the British made 1908 Pattern Webbing. Suspicions were no doubt aroused further when all the men were issued with
khaki drill and helmets of the 'Foreign Service' variety, the latter also referred to as the 'Pagri.'
James and the men of the West Yorkshire's were soon to have their suspicions
confirmed when orders were issued to the 32nd Infantry Brigade at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of the 31st June to prepare for
entrainment the following day, destination as yet unknown to the men, was to be the Dardanelles.
For a comprehensive account of the actions of the 9th West Yorkshire regiment
during the Dardanelles Campaign the reader may wish to follow this link: