Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Charlie HOLLANDS (of Lynsted)
d. 1st July 1916. Aged 21
11th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France
Pier and Face 8 C 9 A and 16 A
Killed in Action
Charlie was born in Lynsted in the first quarter of 1895, the son of Charles Thomas Hollands, the signalman at Teynham railway station, and Alice (née Cornell). He was christened in Teynham Church on 15 May 1895. Charles lived at 6 Albion Place, Greenstreet, along with his three older brothers John Charles, Frederick Thomas and William, and younger brother Edward Frank.
Charlie had worked as a grocer’s assistant and at the carriage works of Messrs Egan Bros, Greenstreet. At the time of going to war, he was employed by Sittingbourne Post Office.
Charlie’s service records are not available but it is known that he survived for less than a year. He was recruited via “The Group Scheme”; brought in during the spring of 1915 to address a fall in recruitment. The Government was uneasy about imposing compulsory military service, so The Group Scheme was introduced. On 15 July 1915 the Government passed the National Registration Act. All men between the ages of 15 and 65 who were not already in the military were obliged to register, giving details of their employment. The results of this became available by mid-September 1915. It showed there were almost 5 million males of military age who were not in the forces, of which 1.6m were in protected, high or scarce skilled jobs.
Lord Derby was appointed Director-General of Recruiting on 11 October 1915 and on 16 October he launched The Group Scheme, often referred to as The Derby Scheme. Men between the ages of 18 and 40 could continue to enlist voluntarily or attest with an obligation to join if called upon later. Voluntary enlistment would end after the last day of registration, 15 December 1915.
Men who enlisted under The Group Scheme fell into two classes:
Class A - were attested for service, but chose to defer it
Class B - agreed to immediate service, paid a day's army pay for the day they attested, given a grey armband with a red crown as a sign that they had volunteered. They were officially transferred into Section B Army Reserve and sent back home until they were called up.
The men were classified into married and single status and listed in 23 groups according to their year of birth.
The Group Scheme, which was not considered a success, ceased on 1 March 1916. Just over 200,000 men enlisted under the scheme; just over 2 million signed up and were deferred. Only 38% of single men and 54% of married men who were not in reserved occupation had avoided this recruitment. This did much to hasten the government’s decision to bring in conscription.
Being born in 1895, Charlie would have been placed in Group 3 and was enlisted on 20 January 1916. He went to the front on 4 May 1916 as part of the 54th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. Preparations were being made for the Battle of the Somme. Charlie’s Division rehearsed in detail the manoeuvres required of them in a replica of the actual battlefield that had been prepared in the Picquigny area. This included a full dress rehearsal with aeroplanes and flares. This was overseen by Sir Douglas Haig himself.
By Saturday 1 July 1916, each man knew the exact spot he was to make for, and what to do when he got there. The Division was in position by 2am. At 6.30am the guns started firing and at 7.22am the enormous explosions of the trench mortars were heard and felt. At 7.30am the first troops went into action in the Battle of Albert, the first of thirteen battles that would form the 141 days of “The Battle of the Somme”.
Charlie’s Division, along with the 7th (Service) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, led the attack up the southern face of Mametz spur.
The war diary of Charlie’s Battalion includes the following report of what took place on the day he died:
REPORT ON ATTACK, JULY 1ST, 1916
11th Battalion Royal Fusiliers
The Battalion formed the left assaulting Battalion of the 54th Brigade, the 7th Bedfordshires
being on the right. The Manchesters of the 91st Brigade were on our left.
By 1am the Battalion was ready in the forming-up trenches, in the following order:
At 7.30am (Zero hour) “A” and “B” Coys led off, advancing in four waves in extended order, the Supporting and Reserve following up in artillery formation. The intervals between the advancing waves from 100 to 150 yards. In comparison with the hurricane bombardment which had opened up by our concentrated artillery, 2” and Stokes Mortars, the enemy’s reply was feeble, so that the casualties which we suffered in crossing no-man’s-land were few. Some machine guns, however, opened on the flanks, and these knocked out a few, but in no way held up the steady advance. One of these guns was rushed and captured with great dash by L/Cpl Payne of “B” Coy. The enemy’s front lines offered no opposition, and EmdenTrench was reached bang up to time. In Bund Trench a few Bosch were encountered, but were easily dealt with. At this point it was possible to look round and see how things stood. The 7th Bedfordshires on our right kept touch perfectly with us; on the left the Manchester seemed to be rather hung up. It was, therefore, imperative to watch the left flank, and this fell to Major Hudson, in command of “A” Coy, who was most careful on this point, and was kept well backed by Capt Hoare, in command of “C” Company.
It was on the advance from Bund to Pommiers Trench that 2/Lt Parr Dudley dealt so effectively with a party of 30 Germans who were attempting to counter-attack from the direction of Mametz. He wheeled his platoon half-left and charged them, but unfortunately Parr Dudley was killed – the only one of the party.
The Pommiers Trench was manned to some extent by riflemen, and a machine gun in a bedded emplacement kept up a steady fire even after the first two waves had got into the trench, but the man behind the gun was soon dealt with and his gun captured.
As, according to schedule time, there was a 20 minutes’ wait in this trench, some hand-tohand fighting took place, as the dug-outs contained lots of Bosch. Many were bombed effectively before they had time to make a bolt into the trench.
The Redoubt and Maple Trench line was a tougher nut to crack, and, as the first wave of Bedfordshires and our men got out of Pommiers, the rifles and machine guns opened fire from the Redoubt and mowed them down.
On the east face of the Redoubt the wire was much damaged, but on the west it was in sufficiently good repair to enable the enemy to hold us. Several times the men reached the wire only to be shot. As the frontal attack on the Redoubt was not progressing, Capt Johnson, commanding “B” Coy, decided to take his men up Black Alley with the intention of bombing up Maple Trench and so into the Redoubt, but the last 60 yards of this trench is straight and a machine gun held him up. He then decided he would attack in the rear over the open, but was bothered by German snipers who were established in Beetle Alley, so he asked 2/Lt Savage, who was with “A” Coy, on the left, to rush them out of the trench. He carried out this operation, so thoroughly and quickly that Capt Johnston was able to get his men up to the Redoubt without a casualty. The Germans were very thick in the Redoubt, and were firing head and shoulders over the parapet. Capt Johnston put his Lewis guns at the end of Black Alley so as to enfilade the front of the Redoubt, and they successfully wiped out all the Germans who were in the trench which enabled the Bedfordshires and ourselves to dash in and finish the rest. This is practically the story of the Right Company.
The Left Company was unfortunate in losing Lt Nield, who was killed near the German front line. The Pommiers line was reached easily, and the dug-outs in Black Alley received many bombs. At the junction of Pommiers and Black Alley there was some hand-to-hand fighting, a German officer suddenly appearing from the dug-out followed by some men – they were all killed. This company’s task was difficult and dangerous, as the Battalion on our left had not secured Dantzig Alley, and the left was completely in the air. 2/Lt Savage was helping “B” Coy by clearing Beetle Alley of snipers, and it was then that he was killed by a sniper while trying to see how things were going on the left. He had been hit in the foot from the very start at 7.30am, but had stuck on and led his men gallantly the whole time. Some good work was done by the Lewis Guns with this Coy, who got their guns into position to command the Circle shows Charlie’s position on 1 July 1916 on the approach from Fritz Alley, which was full of Bosche, and it was entirely due to the way in which the machine guns and Savage’s platoon dealt with the situation that our left remained secure.
Capt Hooke, with his Stokes mortars, rendered great assistance by pounding Fritz Trench and causing the Germans to bolt, presenting a splendid target to our Lewis Guns, who bowled them over in the open.
The Support and Reserve Coys supported closely and did excellent work in repelling small counter-attacks which had been launched from the flanks. The programme was that they should pass through the assaulting Coys at Beetle Trench and secure the final objective of White Trench, but, on consultation with the Commanding Officers, it was decided that it would be a dangerous undertaking while the Brigade on the left and right were so hung up.
The Battalion set to making its strong points and making fire steps, and parties from the Dumps soon came up with wire, stakes, bombs, ammunition and water. The men were all in the best of spirits and seemed delighted with the fight. Later on in the afternoon a reconnaissance was made to White Trench, which was found to be unoccupied – so a small garrison was put here.
Communication: It was very seldom that the telephone worked satisfactorily, but admirable work was done by our Signallers, who, by means of a shutter and flag, succeeded in getting our messages through. One of the finest things witnessed was the performance of Pte Hughes, who, knowing his message to be important, selected the white signalling flag, mounted to the top of the parados in spite of shot and shell which were all round him. He did not give in till a shell dealt him a terrible injury.
It is difficult to pick out any one incident of gallantry and devotion to duty when every man behaved with such dash, but such episodes as the following give an idea of the individual pluck:
(1) Pte H R Wheeler found himself alone in Emden Trench, in which were 7 Germans. Three of these he managed to shoot before his bolt got jammed by a sock breach cover. He retired behind a traverse and jumped on to the top of the trench shooting the remaining four with a revolver he had found.
(2) Sgt Brisby was called upon for assistance by a bombing section who had run into German bombers in Black Alley. He went over from his position in the open on the left of Black Alley, and shot one of the Germans who had thrown bombs at him from a fire step. He then jumped into the trench and bayoneted the remaining three. [Editor’s note: Private Wheeler was killed in action on 26 September 1916.]
Mention must be made of the fine way in which the dug-out clearing parties of the 6th Bedfordshires behaved. They did not scruple to enter dug-outs whether they contained live Germans or not, and in this way secured many prisoners.
At the end of the day the Battalion was disposed as follows:
1 Coy in Maple Trench and garrisoning No 5 Strong Point.
3 Coys in Beetle Trench and 1 platoon pushed out as an outpost to the White Trench.
On the night of July 2nd the Battalion was relieved by the 12th Middlesex Regiment.
C C Carr
Lieut Col Commanding 11th Royal Fusiliers 6th July 1916
The Battalion's casualty figures for that day were 47 killed, 6 died of wounds, 148 wounded, 17 missing and 4 shell shocked. At some time, on this first day, Charlie was killed by a sniper's bullet. He had survived just 57 days at the front.
On that day the 18th Division had taken 695 prisoners, had suffered 3,707 casualties, including 45 officers and 871 other ranks killed. The wounded numbered 103 officers and 2,692 other ranks.
Captain G H F Nicholls, in his book The 18th Division in the Great War, said about the capture of Pommiers Redoubt:
On 1st July, when for the first time the now immense forces of Sir Douglas Haig, attacked on the grand scale, and Britain's civilian soldiers made their ‘prentice effort to oust the Germans from the labyrinthine strongholds which they had been strengthening for two years, the 18th was one of the few British Divisions to attain all its objectives. This opening battle of the Somme was, for the 18th, a typical Maxse* success - a triumph first of preparation and construction and then grit and determination. The Division never possessed men more magnificent physically than those who fought on 1st July 1916.
* Referring to Lieut-General Sir Ivor Maxse who trained the 18th Division and commanded them in the field until January 1917.
Charlie's death was recorded in the following East Kent Gazette report on 22 July 1916:
GREENSTREET. DEATH FROM A SNIPER'S BULLET.
Mr and Mrs Charles Hollands, of Greenstreet have suffered a sad loss by the death of their fourth son Charles, who was a private in the Royal Fusiliers. Young Hollands, who was 21 years of age, was killed by a sniper's bullet on July 1st. He went up with the 1st Derby Groups in January, and went to the front on May 4th. Previous to joining the colours he was on the staff of the Sittingbourne Post Office. Mr and Mrs Hollands have 3 other sons serving viz John in the Royal Navy, Frederick in the 1st Buffs, and William in the RGA. The two soldiers are at the Front. The fifth son joins the services next week. Mr. Hollands has been signalman at the Teynham Station for the past 28 years.
Charlie was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory medals. [See Appendix 1]
Charlie’s older brother, Frederick, who we also commemorate, would be lost 11 weeks later on 15 September 1916. Both are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
In November 1916, Charlie’s mother received his back pay that amounted to £2 7s 0d (£2.35p). In September 1919, she received his War Gratuity of £3. [See Appendix 2] Taken together these amount to roughly £370 in today’s money.
Both his other brothers survived the war, although his younger brother Edward was left 40% disabled due to gassing in the trenches and would die in 1955 aged just 57.