Private Walter John Holley

Reg. No. 30965 (4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment)

Killed in Action: 15 April 1917

Commemorated: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Bay 5.

 

Thomas Holley (1848-1935)

Walter was the son of Thomas Holley (1848-1935) and Annie Crossley (1853-1924). Thomas was a Thatcher and married Annie on 6 Nov 1881. It is possible that Thomas had been previously married and that his first wife had died some 10 years earlier.

The 1911 census shows Thomas and Annie as having had 11 children, 10 of whom were alive in that year. [The 1911 census is the first one to ask the question about how many children a woman had given birth to and how many were still alive at that stage.] The children were: Isabel, Ellen, Charles, Emily, Sophia, Louisa, Amy, William, Edward and Walter - so Walter was the youngest child.

Walter John Holley (1895 - 1917)

Like most of his compatriots from the village, Walter was a Farm Labourer when he enlisted, probably at around the age of 20. There is little other documentary evidence about Walter until his death, killed in action on 15 April 1917.

The 4th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment was designated as the 'Special Reserve' battalion, this was essentially the regiment's second 'Reserve' battalion, but has also been referred to as the 'Extra Special Reserve' or 'Extra Reserve' in some publications. They initially provided home defence around Harwich and Felixstowe in England, until mobilised and sent to France in July 1916. The battalion served the rest of the war on the Western Front within the renowned 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, returning home in April 1919.

In 1917 they were involved in the continuing Operations on the Ancre, specifically at the actions at Miraumont in February. During the Battle of Arras they were heavily engaged in the Second Battle of the Scarpe (when they captured Gavrelle) and the phase of Arleux in April. It was almost certain that Walter would have been killed during the wider Battle of Arras, although it isn't possible to identify a specific action.

Walter is named on the Arras Memorial, which commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918.