Thursday, 29 May 2014

THE SOMME & THE MILITARY MEDAL



Ernest Holman was the 15th man from the parish to be killed in the Great War - and the first from the parish to win the Military Medal, though posthumously.

 (18) Company Sergeant Major G/206 Ernest Wilfred HOLMAN Military Medal 6th Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).



Ernest Wilfred Holman was the son of Filmer John Holman and Alice Holman of 4 Lion Cottages, Ash. He was the eldest of their seven children; Ernest, Edith, Frank, Albert, James Mabel and Frederick. Frederick John Holman, the youngest child, died of tuberculosis.  Filmer was employed at Gardners’ Brewery in Ash as a maltman, and the family lived in a tied cottage belonging to the brewery.  Ernest was born in Ash and enlisted in Ash, joining ‘A’ Company 6th Battalion The Buffs.
Ernest Holman, MM
 He was aged 28 when he married Rose Spratt, aged 30 and the daughter of Charles Rowe Spratt in Ash church on 13th January 1916. One of Rose’s brothers, Alfred Spratt was killed fighting in Gallipoli on 30th June 1915. He died in action on 7th October 1916, during the opening phase of what was to become known as the battle of Le Transloy Ridges (7th-20th October 1916). Although the attack on Bayonet Trench near Gueudecourt by 6th Battalion was partially successful they suffered heavy casualties, and were unable to retain their hold on the trench. 
The battalion diary records 6th Buffs were “part of 37th Brigade, part of 12th (Eastern) Division”. At Gueudecourt on a very fine day, in an attack on the German trenches 6th Buffs were on the right of the Gueudecourt – Beaulancourt road.  At 13.30 hours the Germans opened heavy machine-gun fire and shrapnel barrage on the British front line.  At 13.45 hours the attack commenced against very heavy machine-gun fire which held up ‘C’ Company on the right. ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies reached the first objective with fairly heavy casualties, but were then held up by the machine-gun fire. 
Twenty men of ‘A’ company succeeded in getting into the trench and advanced with 61st Brigade.  The first objective was held until midnight when 6th Queen’s relieved the battalion, which then went back to bivouacs in Longueval Valley. Eight officers were killed in the attack, with 347 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.
It is recorded in the regimental history that 6th Service Battalion came out of the action just 40 strong and were led away by the adjutant, Captain Page, the only officer who was neither killed or wounded.
Company Sergeant Major Holman distinguished himself in organising the defence of the captured ground, after all his company officers had become casualties. For this action he was posthumously awarded the Military Medal. 
The Ash Parish Magazine of November 1916 said:

‘All our readers will, we know, deeply sympathize with Mrs Ernest Holman, and Mr and Mrs Holman of Lion Cottages, in their grief at the death in action on 7th October of Company Sergeant Major Holman.  He was a thoroughly good soldier, as testified by a letter written by one of the officers of his regiment to his widow.’

‘It is hoped that the Parish will by and by have some permanent memorial of these men.  Sergeant Major Holman is the second son that Mr and Mrs Holman have lost in this war.’

Another soldier from Ash, a member of the same battalion, Private Olive was also killed during the attack.Both men are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme, France (pier and face 5 D). 
Ernest Holman's brother Albert, age 25, had been killed in action on 27th August 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula whilst serving in the Australian Army.  Another brother, Frank Holman was a Corporal in the Royal Engineers (153 Field Company), and served throughout the war.
 




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