In the casualty lists, which appeared on Christmas Day, was the name of Sergeant-Major Holmes, 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers, as having been fatally wounded on December 19 in the attack on General Damant at Tafelkop.
The news of the death of Sergt.-Major J. A. Holmes will cause the greatest regret in Padiham. He was looked upon as one of our most promising soldiers, having risen from a private to sergeant-major, with the distinction of being twice mentioned in despatches, as well as being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. We have published several letters from him in the "Express," and they were capital descriptions of the fighting he had gone through, and his life as a prisoner of the Boers.
Sergt.-Major Holmes left for the war on December 3rd, 1899, arriving in Natal just as the second attempt was being made to relieve Ladysmith. He was then 25 years of age, and had been six years in the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers, joining at 19. In 1898 his regiment was brought from India to take part in the Soudan campaign, and Holmes took part in the battle of Omdurman, and subsequently was in Alexandria and Malta. He came home on furlough, bringing many curiosities, about November 1899. His mother resides in Palmerston-street, Padiham. When Holmes went out to South Africa he was lance-sergeant, and has risen since to sergeant-major, a very remarkable success in advance for a young man of 27. As we said, he arrived in Natal just in time for the advance on Spion Kop. In this fearful encounter he was wounded, and whilst lying on the ground he was captured by the Boers, and remained in the prison at Pretoria until Lord Roberts's advance set them all at liberty. Since then he had been actively engaged, and was mentioned in despatches for good work under Colonel Bullock in the relief of some Prince Alfred Volunteer Guards who were in a tight place. Holmes was then sergeant, and since had been promoted and attached, as sergeant-major, to the Prince of Wales Light Horse, a force that has had a good deal of hard work to do. His Distinguished Conduct Medal was gained by some smart tactics and gallantry, and it is a great pity such a promising career has been cut short. Padiham people had followed his work and promotion with much interest, and we had been looking forward to chronicling further honours. We deeply sympathise with his bereaved mother and relatives.
Burnley Express, 28 December 1901
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