, , , , ,

On the 3 October 1914, the Express & Star reported on a letter received by Superintendent Lewis of the Wolverhampton Borough Police Force. This letter was written by one of his serving Police Constables, PC H. Holmes, of his experiences at the Battle of Mons.

They arrived in Mons on the Saturday and set up a few outposts, making an empty house their headquarters. The next morning, he describes how “we did not know we were anywhere near the enemy until they came upon us in droves.” Holmes saw some troops marching towards them and when they got closer could see they were the Brigade of Guards. He scanned the faces to see if any fellow police officers where amongst the troops, and spotted two of his colleagues, Brewin and Spencer.

Once the brigade had passed, they hurriedly made trenches and the fighting started. Meanwhile, “the civilian population of the village were hurrying past us with bundles of clothes and dragging children after them.” Once the shrapnel started showering down among them, the soldiers took to the trenches. Holmes didn’t “think much of [the enemy’s] rifle fire”, as their casualties were quite small compared to the German losses, “for they came up like so many savages in savage warfare to be mown down by our artillery and rifle fire.”

Holmes’s troops kept fighting and retiring for a number of days. He lost his regiment and joined with the heavy battery Royal Garrison Artillery, who only had three wounded. After a week, Holmes picked up his own regiment again and started forcing the enemy back. The German horses were “strewn all along the road dead from exhaustion”. The enemy blew the bridge over the river up, so the troops had to cross the river in single file, one at a time, over a plank about a foot wide. Holmes’s brigade crossed at night as they were under fire during the day. Under heavy fire, they held their position in the trenches for eight days and nights, and “inflicted enormous losses.” Finally on the eight night they were relieved by another division and were able to march back to a rest camp.

Without further details about P.C. Holmes, including his first name or even his regiment, I have been unable to verify his background, so if anybody can provide further information on this man, please get in touch!