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Staff Sergeant William Holmes (c.1825...........)


Back to . . Surnames of the 11th
Born : circa 1825
Where Born : Loscoe (near Eastwood) in Nottinghamshire, England.
Occupation : Soldier
Date Arrived : 4 Sep 1845 arrived in Hobart
Ship Arrived on : "Radcliffe".
Rank on Discharge : Staff Sergeant
Date of Enlistment : 8 Oct 1843,
Where Enlisted : Liverpool
Regimental # 2159
Date of Discharge : 5 Aug 1870,
Where Discharged : Sydney
Died : 1894
Where Died / Buried : Sydney
Parents Names : Joseph Holmes (b.........d.) and Ann Holmes.(nee) ? (b.........d.)
Spouse's Name : Jane Hackett
Born :
Where Born :
Occupation :
Date Arrived :
Ship Arrived on :
Date Married: 3 September 1855
Where Married :
Died :
Where Died / Buried :
Parents Names :  
Descendants :
Information supplied by Phil White
Area Settled :
Children :
1 . Ann Jane, Holmes (b.......d)
2 . Emily Mary, Holmes (b.......d)
3 . Frederick, Holmes (b.......d)
4 . William, Holmes (b.......d)
5 . Harriet Clarissa (may have been one of twins),
6 . Arthur, Holmes (b.......d)
7 . Alfred, Holmes (b.......d)
8 . Henry, Holmes (b.......d)
9 . George, Holmes (b.......d)
10 . Charles, Holmes (b.......d)
11 . Edith May Holmes (b.......d)
History & Achievements :
William Holmes was born in the village of Loscoe (near Eastwood) in Nottinghamshire, England. He was most probably the eldest child of Joseph and Ann Holmes. Travers quotes a family tradition that William ran away from home,his reasons for leaving are unknown. Potentially, he saw no future in following his fathers trade as a blacksmith. Alternatively there may have been some disaagreement with his parents. Whatever happened, it was significant enough to push him towards military services, not a popular occupation at this time. It is understood that he had no furhter contact with his family. His mother is shown as his next of kin in 1845.
He enlisted in the 11th Regiment of Foot (North Devonshire Regiment) on 8 Oct 1843, giving his age as 18 years. He is reported to have left home and made his way to Liverpool where he joined the Army (why did he enlist in a North Devonshire Regiment in Liverpool). The enlistment papers describe him as 5ft 6in in height, of fresh complexion with blue grey eyes and dark brown hair. His regimental number was 2159. William grew another two inches during the next few years because his height when he was discharged from the Devonshires is shown as 5ft 8in.
He left England on 15 Apr 1845 as part of a detachment guarding convicts on the ship "Radcliffe". William arrived in Hobart on 4 Sep 1845 and rejoined the main body of the Regiment which had arrived in June - July of the same year . He was probably employed as a guard in Hobart and Launceston.
He served with an element of the Regiment on Norfolk Island from Jan 1846 to Mar 1847. There were two mutinies during his time on Norfolk Is including one on 1 Jul 1846 lead by William (Jacky-Jacky) Westwood. This resulted in the death of three constables and an overseer. Holmes told his family that two convicts had drowned the cook in his own porridge. The outbreak was contained by the troops and 13 (could be 12?) convicts were hanged in Oct 1846.
The detachment moved from Norfolk Is to Port Arthur in Tasmania in Apr 1847 and stayed there until Jun 1848. It then moved to Sydney apparently in response to a disturbance in the NSW garrison. The problem had subsided by the time the Regiment arrived. The Regiment was the first unit to occupy the newly completed Victoria Barracks on 6 Aug 1848.
He spent the next few years performing various guard duties at Victoria Barracks and Cockatoo Island. He became entitled to good conduct pay on 10 Oct 1849. He forfeited and regained it several times in the period up to 1852. It was finally reinstated on 17 May 1852.
He was promoted corporal on 2 Dec 1854. On 3 Sep 1855 he married Jane Hackett . They had 11 children; Ann Jane, Emily Mary, Frederick, William, Harriet Clarissa (may have been one of twins), Arthur, Alfred, Henry, George, Charles, and Edith May.
He appears to have been a frugal person. At one time he had saved over 554 pounds. Given his family background, he is unlikely to have received anymore than a very basic education. However, his handwriting is reported to have been very good and he began to move towards administrative appointments. He was appointed as a Military Staff Clerk or General Staff Clerk on 31 Dec 1855. In this capacity he appears to have filled the position of a clerk at the Brigade Office(?). This appears to be an appointment that supported NSW Volunteer forces. The North Devonshire Regiment was recalled to England after the outbreak of the Crimean War although it did not leave until Oct 1857. However, William remained in Sydney although he remained a member of the North Devonshire Regiment. A new family and better opportunities in Sydney probably led to this transition.
He was promoted to Staff Sergeant on 12 Oct 1859 and posted as Brigade Office Clerk or Garrison Clerk. He appears to have been involved with the organization of the NSW Volunteer Force. During this period, he and his family occupied half of a room [5] above Door E in the main Barrack building (Building 1) at Victoria Barracks [6]. This building now houses Headquarters Land Command. His married quarter (if it could be called that) was to the west of the clock tower.
In Oct 1860, he was first appointed under the Colonial Grant(?) and in 1869 received the Military Medal for long service.
In 1870, British troops were withdrawn from NSW and on 5 Aug 1870, he was discharged from the 11th Regiment of Foot. With the departure of British troops, Victoria Barracks was left vacant until 1871 when NSW Permanent Military Force was established. During of this limbo, Holmes and his family were given permission to remain at Victoria Barracks by the NSW Governor. On 26 Oct 1870 , he enlisted in the NSW Military Force and retained his old rank of staff sergeant. He was the second person to enlist after Brigade Sergeant Major Henry Green and was given the regimental number 2. Again he was posted as Brigade Clerk. The family's accommodation improved marginally because they no longer had to share the single room with another family.
He was promoted warrant officer in May 1883 as the Superintending Clerk and on 7 Oct 1887, he was given an honorary commission as a lieutenant and posted as Chief Clerk. It may be that as a result of his promotion, he moved out of the Barracks into private accommodation because when his wife died on 13 May 1888, her address is given as 25 Begg St.
William retired from the Army on 30 Jun 1893 with the honorary rank of captain and took up residence at 13 Bennett St., Bondi.
Whilst taking his young granddaughter, Dorothy to visit his daughter Emily, he slipped between the carriage and platform at Summer Hill Station. Although he was not killed, it is thought that this accident hastened his death from pneumonia in 1894.
William Holmes was accorded a military funeral and was buried in the C of E section of Waverly Cemetery. A testimonial at his funeral described him as:
"The late Captain Holmes had such a large stock of military intelligence that it was remarked on several
occassions that he was a military encylopedia. He performed his duties intelligently, carefully and zealously"
On 19 August 1999, the Dining Room at the Victoria Barracks Sergeants' Mess was named the William Holmes Room
E- mail address
Copyright B & M Chapman (QLD) Australia
Last revised: October 27, 2003.