Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Private James Holt

Gunter, R B N
Durrant, C M
Weston, C G
Kelly, K G
Armitage, G J
Durrant, H M L
Hargreaves, J P
March, G
Dukes, W
Fowler, R
Westerman, H
Kirk, J C
Wiggins, T A
Telford, G
Harper, J W
Alexander, H W
Mason, T F
Wilkinson, W
Brown, C
Adkin, J
Barton, F
Hobman, A
Webster, A E
March, E A
Miller, G
Hannan, E
Utley, G
Walker, F
Bygrave, E W
Chapman, E
Varley, N W
Bowen, F J
Byrom, F
Backhouse, S
Dalby, M
Crossland, A
Crossley, J S
Dean, R
Frost, A E
Hodgson, F H
Holt, J
Hood, W H
Hill, W
Kitchen, T
Linfoot, E
Metcalfe, J C
Marsden, J
Pawson, W
Precious, G
Scutt, T G
Wiggins, J
Walker, E
Wood, A
Young, T
Pratt, W
Taylor, H
Dawson, G W
Lister, J
Binge, T
Atack, G
Durham, E F
Precious, G R
Wheelhouse Smith, W
Backhouse, H
Swann, J W
Burnsides, G A
Coles, W
Kelly, H W
Miles, J G
Tapsell, K

9th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Died 25th September 1915

Cemetery : Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta
Grave Reference or Panel Number : B.XIV.6

Son of James and Emma Holt, of the High Street, Ticknall, Derbyshire; husband of Clara Holt (nee Holmes).
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 the manufacture of Lace Beading.
The 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.
By 1901, James father had unfortunately died so it would appear that he now moved back to the family home 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 other than a record of his marriage to one Clara Foster Holmes registered in the Shardlow District, Derbyshire, 1911. Relocating to the north of England at some juncture, a newspaper article reporting the death of James and dated October 1915 records that prior to the war he had found employment with Rowland Meyrick of Hall Orchards as a Gardener.
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:
"Day 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.
A 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."
Of the men, many would never return.
Formation Of The Battalion
The 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.
The 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)
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancs Regiment
8th (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 a native of Harome, Yorkshire, Chauffeur to Mr. Rowland Meyrick and 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 would also be killed in the Dardanelles Campaign aged 31 years. One may surmise therefore and most 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 Brigade.
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 Geary-Smith.
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.
The 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."
Settling 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.
The 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.
On 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 1893.
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: 


James, like so many others who had enlisted at Wetherby in August 1914, was unfortunately not to survive the actions of the Battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Wounded, and eventually succumbing to the latter, the only evidence as regards his death is to be found in a newspaper article dated October 1915:

"Private J. Holt, of the 9th West Yorkshires, who was wounded on the Gallipoli Peninsula, has died of his wounds in hospital at Malta. Holt, was about 30 years of age, married, and prior to the war, was a gardener to Mr. R. Meyrick, of Hall Orchards, Wetherby."

The exact circumstances and the date of James Holt's wounding is impossible to determine. Whatever the circumstances, it is clear that James was evacuated from the Peninsula and placed on H.M.H.S. (His Majesty's Hospital Ship) 'Salta' (Source: Soldiers' Effects Records, National Army Museum, Chelsea, available on Ancestry.com.) taking the wounded to hospitals and convalescent depots. Soldiers Died In The Great War indicates that he succumbed to his wounds 'Whilst At Sea,' the latter remark suggesting that his death occured close to the port of arrival, in this case Malta, James unfortunately succumbing to his wounds before disembarkation.

Interred at Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta, due to the geology of the island it was found to be necessary to excavate graves into the underlying rock, hence, and to expedite burial, two other casualties are also buried in the same plot; Privates Anthony Henning, 5th Dorsets, and John Walker, 16th Battalion, A.I.F. Walker, a native of Lancelot, South Australia, had disembarked at Malta on the 'Nile Transport' on the 8th September suffering from dysentery. John would unfortunately succumb to this infection at St. Andrews Hospital on the 24th September aged 31. Of Henning, Anthony, a native of Salisbury, was wounded on the 22nd August during the Battle of Scimitar Hill. Evacuated on the Hospital Ship, 'Maheno,' he succumbed to his wounds on board the latter ship on the 24th September aged 29 years. It is with some sad irony that akin to James Holt, his occupation was also that of a Gardener.

Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta

During the early months of 1915, both hospitals and convalescent depots established on the island of Malta and that of the neighbouring isle of Gozo provided hospital treatment for over 135,000 sick and wounded from the Salonika and Gallipoli theatres. Commonwealth casualties either buried or commemorated in the cemetery now number 1,303 including 20 Indian servicemen who according to their religion were cremated at Lazaretto Cemetery, Manoel Island, Malta.



Photograph Courtesy Of The British War Graves Project
Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta. Photograph Courtesy Of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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