Herbert Holt was born in Royton in 1895, his parents being Fred and Charlotte. He was their second child, his older sister being Sarah Alice. Herbert's father Fred died aged just 28 the year after Herbert's death, the family being resident at 22 Radcliffe Street at the time. The widowed Charlotte moved with her two children to live with her mother Alice Green and sister Ellen and they were all at 15 Radcliffe Street at the time of the 1901 census. By 1911 the family, without Alice who had passed away in 1902, were at 6 King Street. At that time Herbert, fifteen years old, was working as a cop packer in one of the local mills - possibly the Thornham were he was working as a piecer at the time of his enlistment.
Herbert joined the army in February 1916 in Royton and was at first a member of the Manchester Regiment. This was probably with the 2nd/10th Battalion (an Oldham unit) who were at Crowborough in Sussex and then in March 1916 moved to Colchester.
The battalion would eventually get to France in February 1917 but Herbert and many other local men were sent out to the front in the summer of 1916. To the surprise of the draft of men that included Herbert Holt they were not to join another battalion of the Manchesters but were to become members of The King's Liverpool Regiment.
The 1st King's had been decimated in an attack on Guillemont on August 8th and needed a large influx of new men to bring it's numbers back up. On August 20th it's very likely Herbert Holt was one of a group of 20 officers and 750 other ranks who joined the battalion, these new men were all from the Manchester Regiment. The largest group of which were from the Oldham district. The 1st Battalion of Liverpool's local regiment now had more Oldhamers in it than Liverpudlians. The new commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel S.E Norris, related that there was a great deal of discontent amongst the new men at being sent to a strange unit rather than to a battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He later wrote:
"I remembered my regimental history, and this gave some hint of the best thing to do in the big task of pulling the battalion together again. I assembled the whole of the new officers and men and told them how closely the King's and Manchesters were related, in addition to their recruiting areas being neighbours in South Lancashire. How, in 1758,the 2nd King's was constituted a separate regiment and became the 63rd Foot, the 63rd Foot now being the 1st Battalion, The Manchester Regiment. Instead of being drafted, as the imagined, to a strange regiment, they were simply coming back home again, and the old 8th Foot welcomed them back as the descendants of it's 2nd Battalion which went away so many hears before.
Before I had spoken many minutes I could see the men were thoroughly interested. The impression my remarks made was profound, and company commanders told me later that when censoring letters home they noticed that nearly every man mentioned the incident. The new officers and men settled down quite contentedly, and in a very short time the 1st King's was again an effective fighting battalion. I was greatly assisted in the above incident by Second-Lieuts.Bannatyne and Walsh, both of whom had read and remembered the Regimental History"
One other Royton man had already been killed with the battalion - Thomas Henry - and there were to be several more. Although the large majority of the men had no experience in trench warfare they were in the front line just six days later on August 26th. They spent four days there in the Serre sector getting used to their new environment. The Germans were fairly active during this time and casualties in the battalion were reported as being frequent but not numerous. September and October saw the men in and out of the front line, when they were out they were stationed in Couin and other nearby villages.The 1st King's were to go into combat on November 13th, the first day of the Battle of the Ancre. This was the final large British attack of the Battle of the Somme. The British artillery had begun it's bombardment of the German positions on November 6th and by the start of the battle had cut much of the barbed wire and many enemy defensive positions. It hadn't destroyed the dugouts built deep below the villages near the front line though.
At nightfall on August 12th all units were notified that zero hour was at 05:45 the following morning. At 20:00 the battalion marched out from Mailly-Maillet to their assembly positions which they reached before midnight. The 1st King's were one of the four infantry battalions of the 6th Brigade. The 13th Essex and 2nd South Staffords were to form the first wave with the 1st King's supporting the Essex and the 17th Middlesex the South Staffs.
The objective of the 13th Essex and 1st King's was through a strongly fortified position on the northern flank of Beaumont Hamel, known as the Quadrilateral. This position was in a hollow between the slopes leading up to Serre on the left and Beaumont Hamel on the right. It formed a German salient in No Man's Land and was well protected with thick belts of wire in front of it. As for No Man's Land, thanks to rain and constant shelling it was an almost impassible quagmire of mud. That morning the area was covered in thick fog, the men could only see 20 to 30 yards ahead of them but in turn that hid them from German view. However, once the troops went over the top the front two battalions of the 6th Brigade began to suffer heavy casualties in front of the Quadrilateral. Behind the 17th Essex the men of the 1st King's had advanced in good order but it soon became apparent that due to the amount of mud the Essex were in difficulties. The two battalions then advanced together and made many desperate efforts to get through or around the bog and into the enemy trenches. All the while the area was swept by machine gun fire and shellfire.The men on the left of the advance were forced to dig in and take shelter behind a small ridge about 30 yards from the German front line. They then received orders to hold on and draw enemy fire while those on the right could advance. On that flank a mixed group of Kingsmen and Essex had successfully advanced to their objective. Troops from the 99th Brigade then worked around the side of the Quadrilateral. As night fell the 1st King's had dug in across No Man's Land and the following morning a group of 50 or so Kingsmen were in action with the 22nd Royal Fusiliers from the 99th Brigade as they pushed into the Quadrilateral. Enemy trenches were cleared, communication trenches blocked and strong points formed. The main German position in the Quadrilateral was now cut off and other troops were able to advance past it and onto their objectives. On the morning of November 16th the 1st King's were relieved and marched out of the line.Their losses were 2 officers killed, 8 wounded and 245 other ranks killed, wounded or missing. 70 of those were dead with approaching half of those losses from the Oldham district. Counting the wounded there were probably over 100 casualties from the area. One of those killed was John Starkey & another Royton man John Wilson was seriously wounded and passed away in a casualty clearing station on November 20th.
At some point in early 1917 Herbert Holt fell ill and was invalided back home to England. Unfortunately it's impossible to ascertain exactly when this was. He died in the military wing of Oldham's Boundary Park Hospital, with his mother Charlotte by his side on the 27th of May of that year. His post mortem gave his causes of death as stomach cancer and exhaustion. Herbert was buried in Royton Cemetery alongside his father on June 1st.
Herbert's mother Charlotte died in 1926 aged 58 and was buried with her husband and son. Also in the family plot is Herbert's sister Sarah Alice (1958,aged 66), his two Holt grandparents and his aunt Ellen Green. The only marker on the grave is Herbert's Commonwealth War Graves headstone.
Date of Death:27/05/1917
Regiment:The King's (Liverpool Regiment)