Henry James HOLDING


HOLDING, Henry James

Service Number: 699
Enlisted: 8 September 1914, Gympie, Queensland
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 9th Infantry Battalion
Born: Englesberg (Kalbar), Queensland, 19 December 1893
Home Town: Cloyna, South Burnett, Queensland
Schooling: Englesberg State School
Occupation: Mechanic
Died: Killed in Action, Hazebrouck, France, 9 May 1918, aged 24 years
Cemetery: La Kreule Military Cemetery, Hazebrouck
Plot 1, Row E, 12.
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Boonah War Memorial, Kalbar War Memorial, Murgon Memorial Wall, Murgon RSL Honour Board, Murgon War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

8 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 699, Gympie, Queensland
24 Sep 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 699, 9th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
24 Sep 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 699, 9th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Omrah, Brisbane
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 699, 9th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 699, 9th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
7 Aug 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 9th Infantry Battalion
11 Apr 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 699, 9th Infantry Battalion, Bullecourt (First)
26 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 699, 9th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Passchendaele
9 May 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 699, 9th Infantry Battalion, "Peaceful Penetration - Low-Cost, High-Gain Tactics on the Western Front"


Henry James Holding #699 9th Battalion

Henry Holding’s story is very close to that of his younger brother, Charlie, who is also commemorated on the Boonah memorial. Both were born at Engelsburg (now Kalbar) but spent most of their lives at Cloyna near Murgon in the South Burnett. Henry travelled to Gympie where he enlisted on 8th September 1914. He stated he was 20 years and 9 months of age and was employed as a mechanic. Like his brother, he had been a member of the Cloyna Rifle Club before enlistment.

Henry took a train to Brisbane and then on to Enoggera station where he was added to the roll of the 9th Battalion. The 9th Battalion was the first of the Queensland battalions to be raised at the beginning of the war. It would make up part of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division AIF. Barely two weeks after enlisting, Henry boarded the transport “Omrah” at Pinkenba Wharf. He had allocated 2shillings of his daily pay to his mother.

While the “Omrah” sailed south to Sydney and then Melbourne, fears were growing about the possible presence of a German Cruiser Squadron from the China Station roaming the South Pacific. Until the threat was down graded, the ships that would take the 1st Division to war stayed in southern ports. Once it was learned that the squadron had sailed east towards Samoa and Tahiti, the sea journey resumed with the assembly of the fleet in Albany WA before sailing across the Indian Ocean. The fleet did meet one ship from the German squadron, the Cruiser “Emden” which was quickly despatched by the Australian Cruiser “Sydney”.

Eventually the Australian and New Zealand transports arrived in Egypt and the men went into camp at Mena on the outskirts of Cairo. Time was spent training and sight seeing but the fun came to an end when the division was loaded onto transports in Alexandria on 2nd March 1915; destination Mudros on the Island of Lemnos. The next six weeks the men of the third brigade trained in boat drills and landing drills in preparation for the opposed landing at Gallipoli.

The commander of the Australian Forces, General Birdwood, had selected the third brigade to be the first troops ashore on the 25th April. And the 9th Battalion would occupy the far right of the line closest to the Turkish batteries at Gaba Tepe. Henry’s file contains no annotations regarding his time on Gallipoli. He may have suffered from minor illnesses as almost all of the men were sick at some stage but there was nothing that warranted presentation at a Field Ambulance or Casualty Station.

Henry was evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915 and arrived back in camp in Egypt in January 1916. In March the 9th Battalion were on the move again, this time to the Western Front via Marseilles. Again Henry’s file contains not a single entry for 1916 from the time of his disembarkation in France. Henry would see action at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm in July and August, the Ypres salient in September and Flers in November. During 1916 Henry was promoted to Lance Corporal.

1917 brought further fighting for Henry and the 9th at 2nd Bullecourt, Menin Road, Broodseinde and Passchendaele. After the Flanders campaign ground to a halt in the mud in November 1917, the Australian Divisions were pulled out of the line for an extended rest and reinforcement.

1918 would prove to be a decisive year in the war. With the collapse of the Eastern Front, the German commanders had a momentary advantage of numbers and Ludendorff took the advantage in the spring of 1918. The initial German offensive was aimed along the old battle lines of 1916 on the Somme. All of the hard fought gains of 1916 and 1917 fell to the German blitzkrieg. Four of the five Australian divisions in Flanders were rushed south to the Somme to meet the German threat, once the British 5th Army broke. The 1st Division remained behind in the area around Hazebrouck in case of a German attack in that sector; which came at the end of April.

The main thrust of the German spring offensive was Operation Michael along the Somme valley but another offensive, Operation Georgette, was planned for the Hazebrouck sector with the objective of capturing the vital channel ports. The only formation of troops capable of meeting the threat which came in late April and early May was the 3rd Brigade AIF. During the defence of Hazebrouk, Henry Holding was killed in action. His body was buried in the La Kreule British Cemetery. His file contains no details regarding his death, save for the date 9th May 1918.

Henry Holding had survived three years of war without a single injury or illness. It is ironic that the first occasion he is close to injury proved to be fatal. The Holding brothers are commemorated on both the Boonah and Murgon War memorials.

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