Frederick HOLMES
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: (attached to 1st Battalion, North Lancashire Regiment at time of death) ROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 10 May 1915
Age: 23
Cemetery: Bethune Town Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Frederick was the son of Charles and Alice (nee Birks) and had been born on 25 July 1891 at 88 Sussex Road, Southport. For reasons now unknown, he and his older brother, Charles, came to live with their unmarried aunt, Kate Birks, in about 1901. Her address was 64 Bloom Street, Stockport. Frederick attended Stockport Grammar School and then Manchester School of Technology, where he trained to become a civil engineer. Whilst there, he was a member of the Officer Training Corps. When he had completed his studies he became articled to the Borough Surveyor at Leamington Spa.

On 16 September 1914, Frederick joined the army as a private, enlisting into the 19th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. This was the second of the so-called "Public School" battalions and he was given the service number of 3507. As with many middle class young men, Frederick was quickly selected to become an officer and he was commissioned on 9 October. His service papers, held at the National Archives, show him to have been a tall man for those days, standing at six feet. He weighed 141 pounds and had a 39" chest. Frederick had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. Unusually for those times, Frederick had not recorded any religious affiliation.

He was originally posted to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Inniskillings but, in the late spring of 1915, he was posted to the front and ordered to join the 1st Battalion, North Lancashire Regiment as a replacement for casualties in this regular army unit. Frederick's front line war would be to last about 12 hours.

The Battalion's War Diary notes that they were at Les Choquaux, a small village north of the town of Bethune. "2nd Lt. F Holmes, 4th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, joined the Battalion just before we marched off from Les Choquaux. Fighting strength - officers, 19; other ranks, 806."

They moved off at 8pm to take up battle positions in the third line of breastworks at the Rue de Bois. The forthcoming attack would later be officially designated as the Battle of Aubers Ridge. Frederick and his men would be in support of the attacking battalions, ready to go forward to reinforce them or to exploit any successes they had. At 5am on the 9th, the British artillery opened its barrage of the enemy trenches and, 30 minutes later, the infantry attacked.

The North Lancashires now moved forward to take over the British front line . They "filed through the Rue de Bois and advanced partly in the open and partly through the communication trenches with little difficulty and only a few casualties."  At 6.05, reports were received that the assaulting battalions were held up by machine gun fire from positions at Ferme du Bois. About this time, the Battalion commander had moved his headquarters up to the front line and "the assaulting troops could be clearly seen lying in the open in front of the enemy's wire entanglements."

Shortly after 7am, "A", "B" and "D" Companies were ordered into the attack and they "climbed over the parapet and moved forward at the double. They were met with very hot fire from the front and left flank which ultimately checked the line in front of our breastworks. Every officer was hit and the casualties were very heavy."  It was during this advance that Frederick was hit. At about 7.50, the Battalion was ordered to withdraw as best they could to back behind the parapet. They later further withdrew to the rear of the Rue de Bois and reorganised. Frederick and many of the others were still lying wounded out in No Man's Land. It was not until darkness fell that it was safe for patrols to go out and bring them back to safety. Frederick was evacuated to a field hospital at nearby Bethune but nothing could be done to save him.

The attack had been a failure. Of the Battalion's 19 officers, 8 were dead and another 5 wounded. Of the rank and file, 22 had been killed, 197 wounded and 10 were posted as missing.

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