Private Douglas John Holmes – C 5672 – ACTIVE SERVICE (World War II)
On March 20, 1940 Douglas John Holmes completed the Attestation Paper for the Canadian Active Service Force (CASF). He was 19 years, 4 months and 19 days old when, as a single man, he enlisted for the duration of the War. Douglas John was born in Burgesville, Ontario (south of Woodstock), and gave his birth-date as November 1, 1920. It is indicated that he completed grade V11 and part of Grade VIII in a Rural School, in Ontario. He lists RR #1, Lakefield, Ontario as his present address. On his Attestation Paper, Douglas John indicated that he had no previous Military experience. As far as his Trade or Calling is concerned, he lists Labourer. Douglas John was 5′ 7” tall and weighed 133 pounds. He had a fair complexion, hazel eyes and light brown hair. His medical examination took place in Peterborough, Ontario. Douglas John had no medical issues or physical limitations, and as such he was deemed fit (Category A), for Overseas duty with the CASF. His next-of-kin was listed as his Father, Mr. Joseph Holmes of RR #1, Lakefield. Douglas John signed the Oath and Certificate of Attestation on March 20, 1940 in Peterborough. The Certificate of Magistrate was signed by the Justice in Peterborough, on March 20, 1940. Douglas John Holmes was taken-on-strength as a Private (Pte) with the Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment (H&PER) CASF at their Regimental Depot in Picton, Ontario and was assigned Service Number C 5672.
The Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment (H&PER) was mobilized to active service on September 1, 1939. It was redesignated the 1st Battalion, Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment CASF on November 7, 1940.
April 5, 1940 Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from the H&PER on transfer to the Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Training Centre [CI(R)TC], Military District (MD) No 5, which was located at Valcartier Québec. On April 6, 1940 he was taken-on-strength with the CI(R)TC. June 17, 1940 he is shown as struck-off-strength from the CI(R)TC on transfer from Valcartier, Québec. On June 18, 1940 Pte Holmes was ”attached for all purposes from H&PER MD No 5” and is shown at the No 1 Infantry Reinforcement Training Centre (IRTC) at Camp Borden, Ontario. He was struck-off-strength from No 1 IRTC July 14, 1940 on being taken-on-strength at the H&PE Regimental Depot on proceeding Overseas as a Reinforcement to the H&PER CASF. There is a note indicating ”This man proceeded Overseas direct from No 1 CI(R)TC No 2 MD”. He embarked from Halifax on July 16, 1940 and disembarked in England on August 2, 1940. There is no indication of the ship he sailed on.
Pte Holmes was taken-on-strength with the No 1 Canadian Infantry Holding Unit (CIHU) on August 3, 1940 in England. On August 22, 1940 he was granted Landing Leave from August 22, 1940 to August 27, 1940.
During the next 5 months there is no documentation to indicate where Pte Holmes was or what he did, however, he would have been training and performing assigned duties. At one point he was struck-off-strength from No 1 CIHU and taken-on-strength with No 7 CIHU.
The next entry is February 1, 1941 when he is shown at Witley, England. Another 2 months of no documentation to indicate where Pte Holmes was or what he did, again he would have been training and performing assigned duties. Pte Holmes is shown at No 7 CIHU, where he was granted his first Privilege Leave from 17:00 hours April 30, 1941 to 17:00 hours May 7, 1941. June 9, 1941 he was ”attached for all purposes” (except pay) to the No 15 Canadian General Hospital at Bramshot, England. He ceased to be attached to the No 15 Canadian General Hospital on June 15, 1941. July 5, 1941 Pte Holmes was attached for all purposes to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Engineers (Bn, RCE). Another 3 months of no documentation to indicate where Pte Holmes was or what he did, again he would have been training and performing assigned duties. October 29, 1941 he ceased to be attached to the 2nd Bn, RCE. He is now shown back at the No 1 CIHU. On November 13, 1941 Pte Holmes was granted his second Privilege Leave, this one for 14 days. November 29, 1941 he was struck-off-strength from the No 1 CIHU; November 30, 1941 he was taken-on-strength with the H&PER from the No 1 CIHU.
April 7, 1942 Pte Holmes was granted a Privilege (FTW) to April 14, 1942. May 17, 1942 Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from H&PER to No 1 CIHU Special Force. He was taken-on-strength while on command to the Wolfe Force. June 4, 1942 Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from No 1 CIHU, Special Force to H&PER on return from the Special Force. Research failed to identify what this designation ”Special Force” meant. June 5, 1942 he was taken-on-strength with the H&PER. June 16, 1942 he was granted 7 days Privilege Leave to June 23, 1942. August 3, 1942 Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from H&PER to the H&PER WE (War Establishment). August 4, 1942 he was taken-on-strength from H&PER, Special Force to H&PER WE. August 25, 1942 Pte Holmes is granted 7 days Privilege Leave to September 1, 1942. October 24, 1942 Pte Holmes was granted 7 days Privilege Leave to October 31, 1942. November 29, 1942 Pte Holmes was granted permission to marry Miss May Lilian Eames, which he did on December 22, 1942.
January 1, 1943 Pte Holmes was granted a Daily Rate of Pay to $1.50. May 24, 1943 he was granted a 4-day Leave. Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from the Canadian Army (UK) on June 13, 1943 on embarkation from the UK. The H&PER (Hasty Ps) embarked from Greenoch, Scotland aboard two different ships: ”A” Company along with the 48th Highlanders of Canada were on the HMT Derbyshire, and ”B”, “C”, & “D” Companies who were on the Glengyle. On June 14, 1943 he was taken-on-strength with the Canadian Army (CA) [Mediterranean]. Pte Holmes disembarked to the Hasty Ps in the Field on July 10, 1943 which was the date of the Allied Invasion of Sicily, Code named Operation Husky. The Hasty Ps were part of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade (CIB), attached to the 1st Canadian Infantry Division (Cdn Inf Div) which landed near Pachino, Sicily close to the southern tip of the island on July 10, 1943.
The next entry indicates that Pte Holmes was reported wounded in action (gun-shot wound (GSW) to his right leg) on July 23, 1943. On the same day he was struck-off-strength to the *X-3 List, and treated at the No 4 Field Ambulance. On July 24, 1943 he was admitted to the No 4 Casualty Clearing Station and was taken-on-strength to the X-3 List. The *X-3 List was utilized to identify individuals removed from service for medical reasons.
Based on the date, Pte Holmes was wounded in the closing stages of the Battle of Assoro, which had started July 21st, 1943. Monte Assoro was a summit rising 2,880′ above the valley floor. Atop the summit were the ruins of an old Norman Castle. The Village of Assoro clung to the western slope. The summit, which had a commanding view of the surrounding countryside was occupied by the Germans and dominated all routes that the 1st Cdn Inf Div needed to use to continue its advance. The task of assaulting and capturing the summit and Village was assigned to the Hasty Ps. It was quickly decided, that an assault from the front, up the main road was ruled out due to it being heavily mined and fully exposed to enemy guns. A decision was made that the assault would be carried out at night, in two groups: the first group comprising of a Special Assault Company of 60 men (volunteers), plus one rifle Company would go up the steep southeast slope; while the second group would go up the northeast slope. The first group, following what appeared to be goat paths would carry the minimum of equipment. At 4:00 AM, the men reached the base of the summit and started the climb. The men moved ledge to ledge, passing weapons and ammunition up to those in the lead, and then in turn clawed their own way up. It was a grueling task, which was accomplished in absolute silence. Shortly before dawn, the assault Company reached the summit and engaged the surprised enemy from above and behind. The next two days were spent clearing the enemy from the Village.
Farley Mowat, who was a Lieutenant with the Assault Company, would say of the Battle: ”while it was no great Victory in the terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy, Assoro was none-the-less a spectacular triumph of endurance and initiative. And the spirit of the men subdued by their first baptism of heavy shell-fire now rose to unprecedented height”.
August 10, 1943 Pte Holmes was admitted to the No 11 General Military Hospital. August 30, 1943 he was posted to the 4th Bn, **X-4 List. The **X-4 List was utilized to identify individuals returning to service. October 27, 1943 Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from the 4th Bn, X-4 List; October 28, 1943 he was taken-on-strength with the H&PER. When Pte Holmes rejoined his Unit, the Hasty Ps had just wrapped up the Battle of Torella (October 24-27, 1943).
The Hasty Ps were involved in some of the toughest fought Battles in Italy; from landing at Reggio, in the south on September 3, 1943; Moro River December 5-7, 1943; Ortona December 20-28, 1943; the Gustav Line May 11-18, 1944; the Liri Valley May 18-30, 1944; to Fosso Vecchio in the north on December 24-27, 1944.
January 10, 1944 Pte Holmes was awarded the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM) and Clasp. February 11, 1944 he was appointed as an Acting Lance Corporal (A/L/Cpl). March 18, 1944 he was admitted to the No 14 Canadian General Hospital (CGH). March 30, 1944 A/L/Cpl Holmes was struck-off-strength to the X-3 List (Medical reasons) and reported as sick with a severe fever. On the same day he was taken-on-strength to the X-3 List; and reverted to the Rank of Private. April 11, 1944 Pte Holmes was admitted to the No 1 Canadian General Hospital (CGH) with what was diagnosed as Malaria. April 20, 1944 he was admitted to the 2nd Division, No 1 Canadian Convalescent Depot (Div No 1 CCD). April 30, 1944 he was discharged from the 2nd Div No 1 CCD. May 1, 1944 Pte Holmes was posted from the X-3 List to the X-4 List (Reinforcement – ready for duty). May 10, 1944 he was posted to the 4th Bn, X-4 List. May 18, 1944 he was posted back to the X-3 List, on being admitted to the No 14 CGH with Pyrexia (high fever) of an unknown origin. He was discharged on May 25, 1944. May 29, 1944 Pte Holmes was admitted to the No 1 CCD. June 2, 1944 he was posted to the X-4 List. On June 21, 1944 he was discharged from the No 1 CCD and taken-on-strength to the 4th Bn, X-4 List. September 5, 1944 he was struck-off-strength from the 4th Bn, X-4 List. Pte Holmes was taken-on-strength with the 1st Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft (Cdn LAA) Battalion (Bn) on September 6, 1944. On October 26, 1944 the 1st Cdn LAA Bn was re-designated the Lanark & Renfrew Scottish Regiment (L&RSR).
Nothing in his File indicates where Pte Holmes was or what he was doing from October 26, 1944 to January 31, 1945. Having said that, based on Hasty Ps Battle Honours, he was more than likely in Northern Italy.
January 31, 1945 Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from the L&RSR and taken-on-strength on the X-3 List. On the same day, he was at the No 8 CFA (Canadian Field Ambulance) and was admitted to the No 1 CGH where he was diagnosed as having Chronic Prostatitis. On February 1, 1945 Pte Holmes was taken-on-strength from the L&RSR to the X-3 List. February 9, 1945 Pte Holmes was transferred and admitted to No 14 CGH; March 12, 1945 he was discharged from No 14 CGH. On March 14, 1945 he was posted from the X-3 List to the Canadian Infantry Corps (CIC), X-3 List. March 20, 1945 he was posted to No 2 Non-effective Transit Depot (NETD), X-4 List. On April 10, 1945 Pte Holmes was struck-off-strength from the Canadian Army (Canadian Mediterranean Force) [CMF] on embarkation with the 4th Canadian Armoured Corps (CAC) Ferry Party from Italy. On April 12. 1945 he disembarked in France. April 19, 1945 Pte Holmes was posted to the H&PER, X-4 List from No 2 NETD, X-4 List. May 15, 1945 he was struck-off-strength from the H&PER, X-4 List and May 16, 1945 Pte Holmes was taken-on-strength with the H&PER. June 23, 1945 he was struck-off-strength from H&PER to the Canadian Infantry Corps, 149 Canada Draft, Military District 3, Eastern Ontario (Kingston) [CIC, 149 CD, MD 3]. On June 24, 1945 he was taken-on-strength with the CIC, 149 CD, MD 3.
Pte Holmes embarked NWE with effect from (wef) June 26, 1945 and disembarked UK wef June 26, 1945 and he was attached to No 5 Canadian Repatriation Depot (Cdn RD) the same day. The No 5 Cdn RD was where the men were assigned pending their return to Canada.
On July 12, 1945 Pte Holmes was interviewed by a Lt J.H. Goff at No 5 Cdn RD. The interview was as follows:
Plans: To go into the hardware business with a friend also in the Services and to operate a tourist camp as a sideline.
Extent of Problem: This man has a plan definitely fixed in this head. He has had limited experience as a labourer in civil life however and joined the Army shortly after leaving school. The friend with whom he hopes to go into business, he says, has had two years of university education and has some private resources. The man wishes to use his re-establishment credit in order to go into business immediately as he has married Overseas and requires a steady income. He does not appear interested in learning a trade and feels that if he gets a job on discharge the authorities will try to discourage him from getting the re-establishment credit. He has had little education and apparently depends to some extent on the the ability of his proposed partner. He shows some resourcefulness in thinking of alternative business propositions such as the renting of tourist cabins and boats, the acquiring of Govt. land for lumbering operations but it is doubtful that he has any great knowledge of these propositions.
Advice given: To investigate carefully the business he proposes to go into. The capital required and the possibility of receiving a steady income. To have his plan completed in order to lay before the Rehab. Board.
Further advice required in Canada: A realistic explanation of the difficulties confronting a person without much experience in the small retail business and a comparison of its earnings with the income which can be earned from a trade.
July 13, 1945 Pte Holmes was granted 30 days Privilege Leave to August 13, 1945. August 26, 1945 he was struck-off-strength from the Canadian Army Overseas and the No 5 Cdn RD.
When and where Pte Holmes embarked from England and upon which ship is not identified, and when he disembarked in Halifax is not indicated in the File.
On September 21, 1945 Pte Holmes was interviewed by a Lieut. W.R. Douglas – Army Counsellor at Military District Depot (DD) No 3, in Kingston, Ontario. In part the interview states: Age 25, Holmes is a man of medium build and has done considerable thinking before deciding on a course of action in connection with rehabilitation. Holmes intends to investigate settlement (full time) under the V.L.A. This man has a very creditable army record. He was born and brought up on a farm and since leaving school has had considerable experience both in mixed farming and in diary farming in Ontario. He states that his wife – and English bride – has worked on a farm in England. Holmes impresses me as a stable, conscientious chap interested in re-establishing himself in civilian life as soon as possible. Says he has a job in unskilled labour for fall and winter months.
September 22, 1945 Pte Holmes was discharged from the Canadian Army (Active), No 3 District Depot in Kingston. On the date of his discharge, a letter was sent to the Secretary – Department of National Defense (Army) inquiring as to the status of his wife, who was living with her parents in England, coming to Canada to join him. It is worth noting that in this letter a reference is made to Pte Holme’s father J.R. Holmes who was serving in the Army and that he would be discharged in a couple of months. Joseph J.R. Holmes, who had served in the First World War had re-enlisted in the Second World War, where he was accepted, but due to his age was deemed not eligible to serve Overseas. Instead he remained in Canada, where he served as an instructor for new recruits.
An interview conducted in Kingston, prior to his Discharge indicated Pte Holmes was a fully trained Rifleman, that he had been wounded and had spent 5 months training and service in Canada prior to going Overseas, where he spent 62 months in service in the UK, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Based on his service, Pte Holmes was eligible to receive the following Medals: the 1939 – 45 Star, Italy Star, France German Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal & Clasp, and the War Medal 1939 – 45.
According to his Military File, Private Douglas John Holmes served a total of 5 years, 7 months, and 2 days with the Canadian Active Service Force – the Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment: 4 months and 16 days in Canada; 3 years, 11 days in the U.K.; 1 year, 9 months, and 29 days in Italy; and 2 months14 days in North West Europe.
An excerpt from an article in Maclean’s by Barbara Ameil, September 1996:
”The Military is the single calling in the world with job specifications that include a commitment to die for your nation. What could be more honorable”.
DOUGLAS JOHN HOLMES
Douglas John Holmes was born in Burgessville, east of London, Ontario on November 1, 1920. Douglas John went by the nickname “Doug” He was the son of Joseph Lewarton Holmes and Matilda May Fowler.
Three years after his birth, on June 10, 1923, Doug and his family sailed for Canada and settled in the Lakefield area and later to farm in Smith Township. He attended Ray’s School and was raised on a farm. As a young man Doug’s favourite sports were swimming, fishing and hunting; his team sports were softball (3rd Baseman) and Hockey (defence). He also enjoyed riding his bicycle around.
Doug enlisted to serve his country in World War II and while overseas he met his future war bride, Lillian May Eames. Douglas John Holmes married Lillian “May” Eames on December 26, 1942 at the Free Church, Hammer, Surrey, England. When they returned to Canada they made their home in Lakefield. Doug and May had two children: Brian Douglas and Deborah Anne (Holmes) Ayotte.
After returning home from the War Doug and his family lived in Lakefield. He was self-employed as a brick manufacturer and also worked at the Canadian General Electric for 27 years as a storekeeper in the Steel Storage Department in Peterborough. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #52 in Peterborough, Ontario and actively participated in the Remembrance Day Parades. His interests were prospecting and hunting.
Douglas John Holmes passed away on April 20, 1974 and his Legion Comrades were his pallbearers. Lillian May died on December 13, 1992; both are buried in the Hillside Cemetery in Lakefield.
THE DOUGLAS JOHN HOLMES FAMILY OF LAKEFIELD
Douglas John Holmes’ paternal grandparents were William and Elizabeth Holmes of Newton, Lincolnshire, England and his maternal grandparents were Charles Fowler and Matilda Harriet Mackney who were married on December 13, 1871.
Douglas John’s parents were Joseph Lewarton Holmes, born at Chatteris Cambridgeshire, England on October 18, 1881 and Matilda May Fowler, born in Lincolnshire, England on June 27, 1885. They married on December 25, 1904 in Peterborough, England. They emigrated to Canada and settled in Smith Township and raised a family of seven children: Sylvia Daisy; Eric Charles; Dorothy May; Douglas John; Donald F.; David Clarence and Doreen “Peggy” Holmes.
May Matilda Holmes passed away on October 16, 1963 and Joseph Lewarton Holmes died on October 1, 1964; both are buried in the Hillside Cemetery in Lakefield.