William Holmes (British Army officer)

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Sir William Holmes
The British Army in North Africa 1943 E23451.jpg
Lieutenant General William Holmes stands on a Sherman tank of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, 5 April 1943.
Born 20 August 1892
Westminster, London, England
Died 16 January 1969 (aged 76)
Tucson Medical Center, Tucson, Arizona, United States[1]
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1911–1945
Rank Lieutenant General
Unit Royal Welsh Fusiliers
East Lancashire Regiment
Commands held 1st Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers
2nd Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment
8th Infantry Brigade
42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division
X Corps
British Troops in Egypt
Ninth Army
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Mentioned in despatches
Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland)
Order of the Phoenix (Greece)
Silver Medal of Military Valor (Italy)

Lieutenant General Sir William George Holmes KBE CB DSO and Bar (20 August 1892 – 16 January 1969) was a senior British Army officer who fought with distinction in the First World War. He later served in the Second World War, where he commanded the 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division during the Battle of France in May/June 1940.

Early life and First World War[edit]

Holmes was educated at Gresham's School, Holt,[2] and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Holmes was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1911 and served throughout the First World War, during which he was mentioned in despatches four times and received the DSO and bar, and the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor, commanding his regiment's 1st Battalion on the Italian Front from 1917 to 1918.[3][4] He received rapid promotion during the war, being promoted to captain in December 1914,[5] temporary major in May 1916,[6] and ending as an acting lieutenant colonel, to whivh he was promoted on 10 December 1918,[7] making him, at 26, one of the youngest of his rank in the British Army.[4]

Between the wars[edit]

In 1921 he served in Waziristan and later returned to the United Kingdom and became adjutant of the 6th Battalion, RWF, a Territorial Army (TA) formation serving as part of the 158th Brigade of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, from 12 March 1923.[8] He relinquished the appointment on 12 September upon transferring to the East Lancashire Regiment.[9] He attended the Staff College, Camberley, from 1928 to 1929, alongside fellow students like Gerald Templer, John Harding, Richard McCreery and Alexander Galloway.[10]

In 1933 Holmes became CO of the 2nd Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment.[3] Promoted to colonel the same year,[11] he was given a general staff position in the Northern Command in 1934 and, promoted to the temporary rank of brigadier on 1 October 1935,[12] was given command of the 8th Infantry Brigade, part of the 3rd Infantry Division.[3] On 14 June 1937, at the age of 44, Holmes became the British Army's youngest major-general,[13][2] and after spending a period on half-pay, on 1 March 1938 got his first divisional command, the 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division, a TA formation.[14]

Second World War[edit]

Holmes commanded the 42nd Division in France in 1940 with the British Expeditionary Force.[3][4] Following the fall of France and the retreat and evacuation from Dunkirk, Holmes was promoted to lieutenant-general[15] and given command of the newly formed X Corps, commanding it in Syria and North Africa in June 1940.[16]

In November 1941 Holmes became General Officer Commanding the British Troops in Egypt, in addition to his responsibilities as commander of X Corps. In August 1942 he became General-Director of Transportation at the War Office.[16] Holmes's last command was the Ninth Army, based in Palestine and Transjordan, a command he held from September 1942 until his retirement in 1945.[16]



  1. ^ "Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona on January 16, 1969 · Page 5". Newspapers.com. 1969-01-16. Retrieved 2017-12-17. 
  2. ^ a b Speech Days: A New Tradition At Gresham's in The Times, Monday, 27 June 1938, page 20
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Who's Who 1969 (A. & C. Black, London, 1969)
  4. ^ a b c Smart (2005), p. 157
  5. ^ "No. 29013". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 December 1914. p. 10900. 
  6. ^ "No. 29671". The London Gazette. 18 July 1916. p. 7099. 
  7. ^ "No. 31146". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 January 1919. p. 1345. 
  8. ^ "No. 32811". The London Gazette. 3 April 1923. p. 2517. 
  9. ^ "No. 32867". The London Gazette. 2 October 1923. p. 6586. 
  10. ^ Army List 1941 (PDF). p. 32. 
  11. ^ "No. 33934". The London Gazette. 25 April 1933. p. 2766. 
  12. ^ "No. 34204". The London Gazette. 4 October 1935. p. 6216. 
  13. ^ "No. 34408". The London Gazette. 15 June 1937. p. 3857. 
  14. ^ "No. 34492". The London Gazette. 11 March 1938. p. 1671. 
  15. ^ "No. 34886". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 June 1940. p. 4003. 
  16. ^ a b c Lieutenant-General Sir William George Holmes at generals.dk (accessed 21 August 2007)


  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Kenneth Buchanan
GOC 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Henry Willcox
Preceded by
New post
GOC X Corps
Succeeded by
Herbert Lumsden
Preceded by
Sir James Marshall-Cornwall
GOC British Troops in Egypt
Succeeded by
Robert Stone
Preceded by
Sir Henry Maitland Wilson
GOC Ninth Army
Succeeded by
Post disbanded