Sunday, September 18, 2016

English Hollymans Known Only unto God

by Glenn N. Holliman

The World War I Battlefields of France
Part 1

The Somme

In August 2016, my wife, Barb, and I along with our Pennsylvania neighbor, Russ, visited friends in Normandy, France.  During that sojourn, Russ and I broke away for a few days and toured the British Empire battlefields of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Ypres.  While on this sobering visit, I put on my genealogy hat and looked for any Hollyman (Holliman) graves.  

DNA testing confirmed that I am  a descendant of Christopher Hollyman (1618-1691) who immigrated to Virginia in 1650 from Bedford, Bedfordshire and a distant cousin of Englishman Lindsay Holliman.  Both of us have paper trails back to the Cuddington, Buckinghamshire Hollimans in the 1500s, and are possibly descended from the High Wycombe Hollymans of the 1300s.  So those Hollimans (Hollymans) who fought in the Great War are, one could easily argue, my distant cousins, and also most of you who are casting your eyes on this page.

I did not find any gravestones, but I found several names on monuments, and in the words of the poet Rudyard Kipling who lost his only son at Ypres, Belgium, they are known 'Only unto God' as their bodies were never recovered.  They were blasted into bits by artillery fire or ground into the mud, never found, never returned to their families or even one of the seemingly countless British Commonwealth cemeteries that dot northwestern France and southwestern Belgium.

It was at the Thiepval Monument at the Somme near Albert, France that I found the first name.  A Book of Remembrance is available at all cemeteries and monuments listing the names on the memorial or graves.

Below, the massive British memorial at Thiepval, a small village on the Somme Battlefield, contains the names of over 73,000 missing soldiers.

Below, the record book and name on the towering memorial for James Holliman, age 21 from Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire, England.  His home  was only 20 or so miles from Christopher Hollyman's domicile in St. Mary's Parish, Bedford, Bedfordshire prior to his 1650 immigration to eventual settlement in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.

This Jim Holliman died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916.  He was killed in the initial advances on German lines.  Almost 20,000, yes, 20,000 British soldiers died on this first day.  This does not count the French who were charging miles away on the right, and of course the Germans who had received an astronomical dose of cannon fire and whose trenches were invaded.  It may well be the most blooding day in the history of warfare.

Before this battle ended in November 1916 there were over 1,000,000 British Empire, French and German casualties.  The lines had only moved a few miles.  This was a four year war, 1914-1918, of attrition in which over 20 million may have died on all fronts.

The memorial wreaths at Thiepval August 2016 on the 100th Anniversary of the horrid Battle of the Somme.

Much has been written on World War I.  

Here are some volumes in my library which I can recommend on the Somme.

Next Posting, the Battlefield of Ypres were two other Hollymans (Holliman) died.

1 comment:

  1. James Holliman was my father's brother. We only came across your blog as my son is stationed in Germany with the US army and was thinking of visiting the area where his great grandfather's brother died. My father was Cyril Holliman. Regards Mary Holliman Williamson