1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Sidney Holford

Contributed by: Alan Greenwood, on 2008-11-04

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First Name Sidney
Surname Holford
Year of Birth Unknown
Year of Death Unknown
Regiment Royal Marine Light Infantry
Place of Wartime Residence May Hill, Gloucestershire

Sidney's Story

After a particularly gruelling personal disaster that threatened to wreck my fledgling career, my Grandfather told me a story of his experience as a marine in the first world war.

Apparently 60 British marines were sent ashore in Greece, split into groups of two and and commanded to patrol a telegraph/telephone line. My Grandfather heard a shot, saw his companion fall to the ground and instictively dropped to the ground, searching in the direction the shot had seemed to come from. He fired at the first sign of movement, then went and investigated. He found he had killed a sniper (terrorist in his words) who it would seem had killed his companion. Satisfied that there was no further immediate threat, he resumed patrolling between the posts that defined his responsibility.

A few hours later he heard a motorbike approaching, at speed. On seeing him, the motorcyclist, who turned out to be a Red Cross medic shouted at him "Get out, get out, they're all dead".

Reluctantly he marched back to port, only to find that his ship had sailed. He was taken aboard a French ship, and subjected to a court-martial, in French, on the assumption that he was a deserter. Luckilly, though thoroughly scared, he managed to convince the French military that he had returned to port on instruction from the Red Cross despatch rider.

He was later to learn that he was indeed the sole survivor of 60 marines sent ashore to guard the phone line. His ship had left port in the belief that all 60 marines had been killed.

This is the only time my grandfather talked about the war, apart from my stag night, when he and my wife's grandfather almost got to fisticuffs in the Easington Hotel in Banbury, arguing about which ship had been involved in which action. My wife's grandfather having been a sailor, involved with the earliest midget steam submarines during WW1.

My grandfather became a landscape gardener/groundsman following the war, but also dabbled with manufacturing early accumulator powered radio sets. He was also quite a well known shot, revelling in the number of bottles of whisky he won during field clearance shoots at farms up and down the country.

His early training and encouragement resulted in me going to the states in 1972, as a firearms trainer. The result being that I met my wife to be in Washington DC on my way back to the UK. He died in the early '80s and is buried in Epsom, though I was unable to attend the funeral. I have never seen his grave and so my memory of him is still vivid. His "confession" of his most wretched experience helped me pull my life back together. His luck to have been picked as second target, coupled with his skill with firearms are why I, my two children and three granchildren are alive today.

As a sort of postscript, on the death of my mother a few years ago, I inherited several albums of postcards, which were sent by my grandfather to my grandmother, during the First World War. These are mainly "custom" post and Christmas cards showing pictures of the ships he was sailing on at the time. These seem to be very similar to the German ones that were recovered recently and were described as unique, which they are not. I think I can be content that my Granfather was.

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