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Remembered Today:

John Charles Francis Holland - RE and spook WW1, Dep Chief Engineer WW2


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It is always difficult to get information on men who were in Intelligence. I want to find out what he was doing between  1919 when relinquished his commission and when he is again picked up in records in late 1920s. What I know of him is on this link - click


He went on to be one of the founders of SOE in WW2 with C McV Gubbins  (of whom a lot is known, and who worked with  him in Intelligence in Ireland) . Holland went on to be a Major General (as did Gubbins) and Dep Chief Engineer


Oddly I have not been able to find either a biography nor an Obituary for Holland (the Times usually writes one for a man of his background)


I have his RAF record, he is attached to RAF from RE, and gets DFC in Salonica (I have citation). Then he just disappears effectively , apart from a few LG entries, till WW2


I assume he went back to RE in 1919 but cannot prove that


He obviously had a good record in Intelligence, given his involvement in in in 1939. Then not much is said until he emerges as Deputy Chief Engineer in 1944


Can anyone help with an Obit, Biography or other details

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9 hours ago, corisande said:


Can anyone help with an Obit, Biography or other details

From Oxford DNB:


Holland, John Charles Francis (1897–1956), army and intelligence officer, was born in India (probably in Calcutta) on 21 November 1897, the only son and elder child of Sir Thomas Henry Holland (1868–1947), geologist, and his first wife, Frances Maud (d. 1942), daughter of Charles Chapman, deputy commissioner in Oudh. Close friends called him Jo.

Holland left Rugby School in 1914 for the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and from there he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers on 28 July 1915. He was posted to the eastern Mediterranean, arriving too late for the Gallipoli campaign, but serving on the Salonika front for most of the rest of the First World War. He was mentioned in dispatches in 1917, and in the summer of 1918 was awarded the DFC for gallantry in action with the Royal Air Force. He was badly wounded in Dublin during the troubles of 1919–21, in which he admired the technical skills of his Irish guerrilla opponents.

In 1922 Holland reverted from temporary major to lieutenant; he was promoted captain in 1924 and major seven years later. In 1924 he married Anne Christabel, daughter of Sir James Bennett Brunyate, of the Indian Civil Service; they had two sons and a daughter. Holland passed out from the Staff College, and held a staff captain's appointment in northern command in 1934–6. In 1938, again due for promotion but medically unfit, he took an appointment as a second-grade staff officer in the War Office to conduct research in any subject he chose. He chose irregular warfare. His branch, in which he was at first the only officer, was called GS (R).

Holland's Irish experiences led his lively imagination well outside the normal range of military thinking at the time. Early in 1939 his branch was renamed MI R, and placed in the military intelligence directorate, though Holland concentrated rather on operations. Encouraged by A. P. Wavell, he laid the foundations of several wartime secret services, and was one of the originators of the commandos. For a few months in the summer of 1939 he worked at 2 Caxton Street, Westminster, alongside L. D. Grand, a Woolwich contemporary who ran the then inadmissible section D of the secret service. On the outbreak of war in September Holland went back to the War Office.

Holland gathered like-minded officers round him, and dispatched each in turn to run the service for which he seemed fit: N. R. Crockatt, whose prowess he had admired at Rugby, to secure intelligence from prisoners of war; E. R. Coombe to form the inter-services security board, which handled codenames and deception as well as security; Gerald Templer to run the security of the expeditionary force; and M. R. Jefferis to invent and exploit secret gadgets. He sent Colin Gubbins to the independent companies in Norway, then to command projected stay-behind parties to damage the communications of any invading German forces, and eventually to run the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The latter was formed in July 1940 when Holland's staff, and Grand's, and a semi-secret propaganda branch of the Foreign Office were amalgamated.

Holland thereupon went back to regimental duty, on being offered a regular lieutenant-colonel's command. By July 1943 he was back in the War Office as deputy chief engineer and a major-general. He was appointed CB in 1945, and was admitted to the American Legion of Merit and received the medal of freedom with silver palm. In 1947–8 he was chief of staff, western command; in 1949–50 he was again employed, briefly, on secret planning; and he retired in 1951.

Holland was a shortish, burly man who went bald early; a heavy cigarette smoker; quick-tempered, but recovering fast from anger. He died at his elder son's house in Wimbledon on 17 March 1956.





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Thanks for that, it's what I was looking for and gives a very good picture of him.


It is odd that the Times never gave him an obit


I will do a bit of digging now and see what I can flesh out on his experiences in Ireland that "molded" him


There was an assassination attempt on him in Cork (I think it was Cork rather than Dublin)  that wounded him, bu the press seem to have been censored on reporting it. And again oddly nobody in the IRA claims responsibility in the Witness Statements

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