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holden1William Holden married Ellen Turner in St. Peter`s Church in Chorley on the 8 July, 1882. They had five daughters and three sons, Elijah Holden was the youngest of the three boys and was born on the 19th October, 1896.

At some point after they married William and Ellen left Chorley and moved to Fairfield Street in Farington near Lostock Hall. William Holden was working on the railways as a steam engine fireman.

James William (1883) was their first born and he was followed by Ada (1885), Thomas Edwin (1886), Ethel (1888) and Lily (1890).

On the 13 January, 1891 Elijah`s mother Ellen was admitted to Whittingham Asylum and just three months later their 11 month old daughter Lily died and was buried in St. Paul`s Church, Farington.

When the 1891 Census was taken on the 5 April, 1891 William and his four children who were all under the age of ten were still resident in Fairfield Street in Farington. His wife Ellen was not listed as being in the house at the time.  The family had acquired a housekeeper/domestic by the name of Margaret France and as well as keeping house she was probably also taking care of the children while William was out at work.

Recently released records show that Ellen Holden was discharged from the Asylum on 26 September, 1891 and she must have gone back home to William and their children because another daughter Amy was born in 1892. Elijah arrived in 1896 and then finally Georgina in 1898.

When the 1901 Census was recorded Ellen Holden does not appear to be living with the family again.  By this time William had been promoted to a railway Engine Driver and he had moved with his children to Garden Street in Farington. There was no housekeeper listed on this Census so it`s likely the older children were now helping to look after the house and their younger siblings. Elijah was only five years old and Georgina the youngest was just three.

By 1911 the family had moved house again this time to 2 Garfield Terrace in Lostock Hall. Elijah`s mother Ellen was also missing from this Census as well.. William was still employed as an engine driver on the railways and his eldest son James had found a job as a gas fitter`s apprentice. Amy and Elijah were now both working as cotton weavers and the youngest child Georgina was attending school.

On the 1 September, 1914 Elijah went the short distance to Preston to enlist. He had his medical inspection and was recorded as being 5`2” tall and weighing 110lbs. He had grey eyes and dark hair and he declared his age as 18 years and 3 months. However, the Medical Officer passed him as “unfit for service except for RA, RE, AOC, RAMC due to him having defective sight”. Elijah gave his next of kin as his father William Holden of Garfield Terrace, Lostock Hall.

At this point his papers become rather confusing. On the 16 September 1914 Elijah signed another form and this one states that he been allocated the service number 3529 and posted to `D` Coy, 2/4th Battalion. In January 1917 this number would have been changed to 201181.

Then on the 6 January, 1915 on another medical form Elijah declared his age as 19 years and 3 months. His physical condition was said to be good and his vision was now apparently ”normal” and he was passed fit to serve with the territorial force.

The photograph below shows Elijah (marked with an X, sat front row) and possibly some of the men from `D` Company when they were probably still training in England.

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The soldier standing far right at the end of the second row is possibly 201982 Private Harry Atkinson Martindale who was also `D` Coy 2/4th Battalion

At 7.30am on the morning of the 7 February, 1917 the 2/4th Battalion marched from Blackdown to Frimley railway station. They travelled by train to Southampton and then boarded the Duchess of Argyll and sailed to Le Havre.

On the 31 July, 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) started and had almost immediately become bogged down in the mud caused by heavy rain. Further attempts to advance were made over the coming weeks, but objectives for the first day were still in German hands. On the 26th October, a further attempt to capture the village of Passchendaele itself was planned.

The men were in their assembly trenches by 4.30am, 70 minutes later, the British artillery barrage opened on No Man`s Land and the German front line, effectively preventing the Germans from manning their front line strong points. The men went “over the top” keeping only 25 – 30 yards behind the protection of the barrage.

The Regimental History records “Despite the mud and water-logged shell craters, the line advanced steadily behind our own barrage and under slight enemy machine gun fire until about 6am. At about 6.20 the troops were finally held up at the Green Line, a barrier of machine gun fire being opened up by the machine guns in the pill-boxes immediately in front of a farm building. This strong point held 30 men who were killed or wounded by Lewis gun and rifle fire and bombs”.

During the above advance, about 40 enemy aircraft repeatedly flew over the troops at low altitude causing some casualties.

The Regimental History continues “From 6.30, the troops were compelled to lie low in water-logged shell holes owing to the sweeping machine gun fire and constant sniping from men posted in trees, shell craters and pill-boxes”.

Although pinned down, the North Lancashires drove off a German counter-attack with Lewis gun and rifle fire, but they realised that the Battalion on their left had not been able to advance. The unit on the right had advanced but had now been forced back. This now left the men in a dangerous position.

The History continues “Communication with Battalion HQ was almost impossible as runners were shot down in attempting to get back reports of progress; telephone communication was only possible with the Battalion on the left. Heavy rain began to fall about midday. The right and left flanks were up in the air, most of the Lewis guns and rifles were out of action and the men reduced in number and exhausted through exposure and being in water-logged craters for two days and two nights. For the above reason, it was considered necessary to withdraw to the original line and this was effected by 9pm. During the withdrawal, most of the wounded were brought back to our lines”.

In this day`s battle the 57th Division encountered very severe losses in which the 2/4th Battalion bore it`s full share. 3 Officers were killed, 58 other ranks killed or died of wounds, 8 Officers and 251 non-commissioned Officers and men wounded and 38 men were missing.

It was here that Private Elijah Holden`s war ended when he was killed in action. His father William confirmed his death in the Preston Guardian a short while later.

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His body was never recovered from the battlefield and so his name was recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.

Elijah was awarded the British War and Victory Medals for his services to his Country. He is also remembered on the stained glass Memorial Window in St. Paul`s Church in Farington and also on the Lostock Hall War Memorial (pictured below).

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Rank: Private
Service No: 201181
Date of Death: 26/10/1917
Age: 21
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “D” Coy. 2nd/4th Bn.
Memorial: TYNE COT MEMORIAL

Author`s note: Many thanks to Heather Crook the author of “The History of Lostock Hall War Memorial” for supplying the group photo of Elijah for use in this article.

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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