An Old Coathamian – Not Forgotten

George Kemp HOLMES

No. 97266 Private, Central Workshops, Tank Corps.

Born 9 September 1898,
Died 12 November 1919, aged 21 years.

Buried in Darlington West Cemetery, Darlington,
County Durham, Grave D.2K.170.

His regiment, the Tank Corps, came into being on 28 July 1917 after small beginnings the previous year as the Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps. The first tanks, which were a British invention, were used in action in September 1916, during the later stages of the Battle of the Somme. Although unreliable and not very effective when first deployed, they did cause great consternation among the enemy and improved as the War went on. Private Holmes was still in the Army at the time of his death, although he died at home in Darlington, of pneumonia.

George Kemp Holmes came from Darlington, where the family home was at 18, Westbrook Villas. He had attended a preparatory school in Darlington before coming to Coatham Grammar School as a boarder in September 1911. Then aged 13, he stayed at Coatham for 12 terms, leaving in December 1915, aged 17. The school Register of 1911 notes his mother as his guardian, with his father, a wholesale confectioner, deceased. However, the Census of April 1911 records his father George Holmes, aged 69, as still living, but there is a will noting his death in February 1912. Certainly his mother, Edith Lucy Holmes, 30 years her husband’s junior, was alive and a widow when George Kemp Holmes lost his life, and he in turn left all his worldly goods to her. George had a sister, Margaret Grace, aged ten in 1911, and a brother, Frank Richmond, aged two. On leaving Coatham he took an apprenticeship in a local engineering works, although he was a journeyman jam-maker at the time of his enlistment.