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Cuthbert Blacow Holmes was born in Preston during the third quarter of 1896. He was the son of Arthur Birdsell Holmes and Emily Holmes of Lytham, and had two younger sisters, Verna Emilie and Norah.

In 1901 the family were living at 75 Brackenbury Road, Preston. His father was working as a cashier. By the time of the 1911 census, Cuthbert was 15 years old and still in school. The family had moved the short distance to 35 Watling Street Road, Fulwood, Preston and his father was working as a secretary in an oil manufacturing business.

Cuthbert enlisted in the Territorial Force on 12th October 1914 at Lytham and joined the 4th (Territorial) Battalion with the number 2918. He gave his address on enlistment as that of his parents, 32 Cleveland Road, Lytham. He was 19 years old and stood at 5ft 10in tall with a 35.5in chest.

When he signed his declaration that he would serve outside of the UK in the event of a National emergency, at Blackpool in November 1914, he had already been appointed Lance Corporal. He then joined the 1/4th Battalion in Sevenoaks to start his training for War Service.

In April 1915 the 1/4th Battalion was transferred to the 51st Highland Division. He sailed from Felixstowe on 3rd May 1915 with the main body of the Battalion and landed at Boulogne the following morning.

For Cuthbert, 1915 in France would see him in action at Festubert, surviving unscathed where many of his fellow soldiers would not be so lucky; and also being in and out of field hospitals with a variety of skin complaints including scabies and jaundice. By 5th November 1915 he had been transferred to England on the Hospital Ship ‘St David’ and spent 49 days at the War Hospital in Sheffield with impetigo which had affected his face and armsHe stayed in hospital until 23rd December that year.

Photo credit: (Ahoy) http://ahoy.tk-jk.net/Letters/HospialShipStDavidc1917.html

H.M H.S. St. David, circa 1917. (Photo credit: Ahoy – Mac’s Web Log)

Cuthbert was granted a commission into the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment which was gazetted on 28th November 1916. It is unusual to be commissioned into the same regiment you served as a Private soldier, which may indicate how highly thought of he was by his superiors in the Battalion who had recommended him for a commission.

Notes in his services papers state he was ‘restored to the establishment on 11th July 1917’ and the 1/4th Battalion War History shows he joined them in field on 25th July 1917. This was less than a week before the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele which again he went through unscathed.

Early September 1917 saw preparations for what would be the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. Second Lieutenant Holmes was with ‘B’ Company and was one of two Second Lieutenants (the other being Second Lieutenant Fergie) who were commanded by Captain F. W. S. Baker and Major Fenton.

The War Diary details how the attack played out;

THE BATTLE OF THE MENIN ROAD RIDGE: 20th September 1917.

The Battalion was reported in position of assembly at 1 a.m. The lines to be taken up by the various waves were marked by tape, which had been laid as soon as darkness permitted. When once in position the assaulting troops lay in shell holes until ZERO hour. A continuous drizzling rain made the ground sticky and the going bad. The line of assembly was a north south line running through SOMME (D 13 c 50 25). During the night things were fairly quiet, though lively artillery fire developed on our right soon after 3 a.m. ZERO hour was at 5:40 a.m., at which time the artillery barrage opened.

The 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment moved forward from the assembly position in rear of the 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment. The 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment had for its objective (1) the RED DOTTED LINE and (2) the YELLOW LINE, and it was intended that the 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment should ” leap-frog ” at the YELLOW LINE and capture and consolidate the GREEN LINE.

The enemy barrage was promptly opened on the approximate line of our assembly position a proof that the enemy were fully prepared for the attack. This caused the three rear waves, i.e., the four Companies of the 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, to close well up on to the 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment, and it appears that in a good many cases this was overdone, causing the two units to be intermingled and considerably undermining the principles of organisation.

The creeping barrage was being governed by two new principles, tried for the first time and designed to combat and counteract the enemy’s new system of defence : — (1) there were two definite pauses in the barrage, during which it was intended that Companies should replace casualties from the rear and generally reorganise; (2) the barrage started to move forward at the rate of six minutes every hundred yards and later at the rate of eight minutes every hundred yards.

The attack to commence with went well, though a great many casualties were inflicted by enemy machine gun fire, which from the start was very well directed. AISNE FARM was reported taken at 6 a.m., though a Platoon of the 1/4th Loyal North Lancashires had to give assistance in the attack on this strong point. A message timed 8:17 a.m. stated, “Attack appears to be going well.”

The first pause was made on the RED DOTTED LINE, though apparently very little re-organisation was found practicable. Soon after moving forward again considerable trouble was caused by hostile machine guns on the flanks bringing enfilade fire to bear on our advancing troops. According to reports received, this was particularly the case on the right, where the left Battalion of the l65th Infantry Brigade was held up before GALLIPOLI, as a result of which an enemy machine gun on Hill 37 was playing havoc with the waves in the valley through which we were advancing.

The result of these obstructions on either flank was that the men of this Battalion in many cases inclined outwards, leaving an exceedingly thin line facing the original objective. In some cases whole Platoons found themselves attacking strong points on the frontage of other Battalions. Particularly was this so in the case of GALLIPOLI, in the ultimate capture of which men of this Battalion very materially assisted.

Very few of our men reached the YELLOW LINE, though a message from the Battalion O.P., timed 8:45 a.m., stated that it appeared to be taken and consolidation commenced. Finally, therefore, a line of resistance was sited and consolidated about mid-day between the RED DOTTED and YELLOW LINE, with posts of Lewis gun teams thrown out 50 to 100 yards to the front.

The enemy was not finally dislodged from the vicinity of GALLIPOLI and the adjoining SUVLA until after 10 a.m., by which time the barrage was of no further assistance.

At 10 50 a.m. the enemy was reported massing for a counterattack in the vicinity of NILE and FOKKER FARMS, but nothing except heavy shelling materialised on our front. Soon after 1 p.m. various S.O.S.’s were sent up, and apparently local counter-attacks, without any success, were launched on both our flanks.

In the afternoon an effort was made to reorganise the Battalion, which was now reported to consist of only four Officers and 60 rifles in the firing line. The right Battalion frontage was now being held by a mixed line of the 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment and the 1/4th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, stiffened by two Companies of the 1/5th Royal Lancaster Regiment, who, as Battalion in Brigade reserve, and detailed to assist in the capture of the objective and to deal with any hostile counter-attack, had dug themselves in on a line in rear of our consolidated
positions.

About 7 p.m. an Officers’ patrol went forward to reconnoitre KEIR FARM and discover whether it was held by the enemy. This patrol, however, did not succeed in its objective and lost its way, and the project had to be postponed till the following morning.

As soon as darkness allowed, an effort was made to examine our positions and to find out whether measures for defence were complete. They were found to be held by at least six Lewis guns, while there were in all four machine guns, two of which were German, and proved very useful against the enemy.

During the night patrols were sent out, and a further effort made to find the defences of KEIR FARM. KEIR FARM was not identified, and it was therefore assumed that it no longer existed as a concrete defence. No signs’ of the enemy were seen. The night passed without incident, though shelling on both sides was maintained fairly consistently.

CASUALTIES

Officers

Killed – Captain F. W. S. Baker (Commanding B Company),
Second Lieutenant A. B. Fergie (B Company).

Wounded—Captain R. H. Tautz, M.C. (Commanding C Company),
Second Lieutenant E. G. Baker (Commanding A Company),
Second Lieutenant A. P. Smith, Second Lieutenant
H. Dance, Second Lieutenant J. Oldham, Second Lieutenant
R. Grisedale, Second Lieutenant A. Martin, Second
Lieutenant B. Myers, Second Lieutenant C. B. Holmes

Other Ranks
Killed 23, Wounded 161, Missing 11 ; Total 195.

Further examination of the Battalion History shows the exact circumstances of Cuthbert’s inclusion in the casualty list. He had in fact survived the Battle itself, but at nightfall had gone forward with Fergie and two sergeants to reconnoiter a forward position. It states ‘the two officers were struck by a shell and both were very badly injured’. Second Lieutenant Fergie must have died shortly thereafter, whereas Cuthbert Blacow Homes died six days later at No. 12 Casualty Clearing Station.

A local newspaper reported his death;
2 LT CUTHBERT B HOLMES, LYTHAM

Cuthbert was 21 years old when he died. He was buried in Mendingham Military Cemetery.

In May 1919 the War Office requested information from his father as to whether the memorial plaque and scroll should be sent to him at 32 Cleveland Road, Lytham. Cuthbert’s mother replied that her husband had died the previous year, but she would be pleased to receive the plaque and scroll at the same address. Arthur Birdsell Holmes had died at home on 22nd December 1918.

She would also receive the 1914/15 star, British War Medal and Victory Medal posthumously awarded to her late-son.

Rank: Second Lieutenant
Date of Death: 28/09/1917
Age: 21
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Grave Reference: VI. F. 19.
Cemetery: MENDINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY

Paul McCormick
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Paul McCormick

Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
Paul McCormick
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