Gresham's School in Wartime

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Lieutenant-General Sir William George Holmes(1892-1969) – a distinguished OG career soldier

William was born in Westminster, the son of Dr William Reid and Elizabeth Holmes.  The 1901 Census records the family, including older sister Elizabeth, living in St. James with a governess, housemaid, parlour maid and cook to look after them. He attended Prep. School in York before registering at Gresham’s in January of 1904.  He boarded in Woodlands, where he later became a prefect, playing both rugby and cricket for House and School.  William also did well in the junior steeplechase, and performed in two plays, ‘The Tempest’ where he was ‘splendid’ as the jester, and as Sir Toby Belch in ‘Twelfth Night’ in which he was described as ‘quite first rate’.  An obituary in the OG Magazine reveals that he was a keen and accomplished boxer and swordsman as a young man.

He leaves the School at Christmas of 1909 and in the following year is mentioned in the honours lists for admission to Sandhurst where he also continues his rugby playing.  In 1911 he is commissioned into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and is listed as serving with them as 2nd Lieutenant in 1914.  William was wounded twice during his service in France, Belgium and Italy, and received the DSO & Bar in 1917, when, “During the final stages of the fighting he was the soul of both defence and offence,” and “it was mainly due to his gallantry and dash that the enemy counter-attack was defeated.”  He also won the Italian medal for valour and was mentioned in dispatches four times. Continuing his army career after the War, William is promoted to Colonel in 1933, and in 1937 becomes the youngest Major-General.  In WWII he commands the Territorial Army’s 42nd Infantry Division in France, going to North Africa after Dunkirk as Lieutenant-General. Between 1943 and 1945 he is in command of the IXth Army in Palestine.  After his knighthood in 1945 he retires to a ranch in Arizona.