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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Corporal William Holbrook


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Looking for the history of a relative. Corporal William G. Holbrook, City Of London Batt. Royal Fusiliers. An Old Contemptible who was the batman for Lt. Col. MacMahon. Any help appreciated. - S.W.

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I assume you have his MIC? This appears to be him: Holbrook


Name: William G Holbrook

Regiment or Corps: 4th Royal Fusiliers

Regimental Number: L/13599

It shows he first entered the theatre of war on 13 August 1914.

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  • 11 months later...

Hi there,

I'm just looking into my boyfriends family tree and his great grandfather was a William G Holbrook, who in the 1911 census was listed as a regular soldier 4 Royal Fusiliers in Corunna Barracks, Stanhope Lines, Aldershot.

I have this information about him... William was a regular soldier, then a World War I hero when he fought in the trenches for 4 years and never even got wounded; remarkable as life expectancy was only 2 weeks. His father who he said he was fond of used to kick him up the stairs, but I know nothing else about this man. William used to tell me in my teenage years as amazing as they grizzly tales of the war and how he survived through intense focus upon ‘staying alive’; ie. he declined becoming an officer as their life expectancy was shorter than the infantry’s. He, as a passionate young man, deprived of creature comforts for 4 years in hell....

I also recall being told that he was always the last man standing so must've been attached to many other regiments perhaps?

Anyway, if it's any help I believe he was born in Hornchurch Essex, 12 Nov 1892, married Dec 1921 in Hammersmith to a Lily Brittain, they had two daughters Shelagh Mary (1924-1988) and Wilma G (1930-1989) both born in Romford. And died in Havering Essex Nov 1987....

I'd love to know more about him also, I think I've found his medal card (maybe cards?) but can't seem to gleam anything else, so any information you may have also would be lovely.



Many thanks! Hope to hear from you ^_^

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  • 4 weeks later...

Sorry Chloe, for not seeing this reply to a long forgotten post! In fact I was making an enquiry for a lady living at Aldermaston who had documents including a large photograph of William and letters originally written to his family during the War. He was actually the batman to Lt Col. Macmahon and a leading member of the Battalion Rifle Team. A matter of some importance to him as Macmahon was the leading light in introducing rapid and accurate musketry to the Army. 15 rounds a minute to qualify. He seems to have served entirely with the 4th Fusiliers as never having been wounded he never was posted to another unit. His sister lived at Southend-on Sea. A photo of him in his later years, and several tales of his experience are included in Lynn MacDonalds book '1914'

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wowzers!! This is amazing news. The lady you speak of must be a relation of my boyfriends.

Is there any chance that I may be able to get in touch with her? William's grandson (my boyfriends father) might hopefully have some photos and stories he could swap with the lady at Aldermaston :)

Please let me know as it would be lovely to get in touch.

Many many huge thanks!

Chloe :w00t:

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I've found this online also.... http://www.1914.org/...-7-into-battle/ You can hear William from -5.56 :) Accent places him perfectly, how marvellous to hear him!

Despite fighting well at Mons, the British were forced to draw back as the Germans’ greater strength overwhelmed them. Private William Holbrook, who was acting as a runner carrying messages, described the confusion of the retreat that followed.I got down with this message and when I got away I had a hell of a job getting back, I started going back and met some troops coming down. And a fellow said, ‘Where are you going?’ I didn’t know them they weren’t from my battalion – so I told them and he said, ‘You’ll have a job’, he said, ‘they’re retiring from the river.’ And I said, ‘Retiring?!’ he said, ‘Yes’, I said ‘I suppose that’s the message I took back, I don’t know.’ When I got back I had a job to get through – I had to go a different way because there were troops coming down. When I got back to where we were, they had gone! I didn’t see anybody. Wondered what the hell had happened. So I cleared off as fast as I could. And so of course I was behind the troops retiring and the Germans advancing.

And here at -8.30 http://www.1914.org/podcasts/podcast-6-off-to-the-front/

William Holbrook was mobilised at the start of August 1914. He recalled his thoughts on the prospect of war as he prepared to leave home.

When we got to Cowes, waiting on the small boat to cross to Southampton, there was a periodical going at that time called John Bull. On the side of a house was a placard, an advert, advertising John Bull. The words were: ‘The dawn of Britain’s greatest glory.’ That’s all it had got on it nothing but just John Bull and ‘The dawn of Britain’s greatest glory’ – that was the whole side of a house. And as I was lying there for an hour or so, I thought to myself, I wonder whether it will be or not.

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  • 2 years later...
Guest simon bamber

Hi Chloe,

I have stumbled on this forum whilst researching my Great Grandfather, William Holbrook. It seems that he is the same person that you are looking for information on. My Grandmother was Shelagh Kirk, Williams daughter. I knew my Great Grandfather well and can probably help you fill in any blanks about his history. This would also mean that I am related to your boyfriend! Hope to hear from you,

Yours Sincerely,

Simon Bamber

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  • 3 years later...

hi my mother in laws mother was wilma who was williams daughter. its been a long search but thankyou for putting this thread up as its been a massive family tree exorcise for my son. does anyone know if there are any photos of him as it would be nice to show my son his great great grandfather.

andrew chandler. cardiff

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  • 3 months later...

Hi all,


WH is portrayed in the first episode of Our World War, by the BBC. I found this thread  following some googling after seeing him mentioned in the ending credits.


I’m sure you may know this though thought I’d mention it just in case!



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