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Memorial to Pte Thomas E Holman in North Ormesby Cemetery.

The following information has been researched and kindly contributed by Ray Wilkins of Middlesbrough.

In response to the Lord Kitchener recruiting posters of 1915 and the general enthusiasm for the War many young lads turned up to enlist.
At first it seems they were actually encouraged, even though the minimum legal age for enlistment was 19.
Many boys would think that being a soldier would be a glamourous adventure and a chance to get away from a hard life in usually strict homes.
If they appeared to be of fighting age, they could be called cowards in the street, often by females, for not being at the Front.
After the Regular Army lost so many men in 1914, recruiting Officers were under pressure to obtain more men and some clearly turned a blind eye to a lad's date of birth.
Boys as young as 12 and 13 served on the Somme. The youngest to be killed was only 14. A 16 year old in the Navy was awarded the Victoria Cross.
When stories of these youngsters being killed and wounded began to appear in public, the powers that be issued instructions for Units to double check their personnel and many were discharged as under-age.
One of these was Thomas Edward Holman of 23 Kings Road, North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, N Yorks, who was born in the June quarter of 1899.
Some of his record papers have survived and they show that he enlisted at Middlesbrough on the 26th July 1915, when he would have been just 16.
At the medical examination he stood 5 feet 5 and a half inches and weighed 8 stone 3 pounds and was classed as "well developed".

Pte Thomas E Holman.

He was assigned to the 2/4th Reserve Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment with Army number 4708.
The activities of the 2/4th Battalion during the War are described here.
Tomas Holman experienced 177 days of training with the 2/4th Battalion in the UK, before his true age came to light and he was discharged on the 18th January 1916 on the basis that he had made a mis-statement of his age at enlistment.
At some later date he re-enlisted and this time he ended up in the 1st Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment with Army number 49396.
He was missing in action and eventually presumed dead, aged 19, on the 30th March 1918 in the Battle of St Quentin, along with thousands of other lads, including many of the 4th Yorks Battn. They faced the last German effort to win the War, the offensive that began with the operation called Micheal on the Somme, when the British Army was forced to retreat some miles, nearly to Amiens.
The Red Cross sent to his family eye witness accounts of the Battle and a letter [reproduced below] about their unsuccessful search for what happened to him.
Private Holman has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial and on a family grave in North Ormesby cemetery.


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