b. 19/07/1890 Athy, Ireland. d. 27/02/1975 Hobart, Australia
John Vincent Holland (1889-1975) was born in Athy, County Kildare, Ireland on 19th July 1890. His father was also John Holland MRCVS, both in Castlecomer, County Kildare. He was a veterinary surgeon at Model Farm, Athy and a member of the Kildare Hunt. His mother was Katherine nee Peppard, born at Maryborough, Queen’s County, Ireland. They married in c.1889 and had eight children in total, including John, who was the eldest.
John was educated at Clongowes Wood College, Clane, County Kildare from 1906-1909 and Liverpool University, where he studied to be a vet, but he didn’t complete his studies. He travelled extensively in South America and was engaged in ranching, engineering and hunting. John was working on the Central Argentine Railway at Rosario in Santa Fe Province when the Great War broke out and he returned to Britain immediately.
He enlisted in 2nd Life Guards on 2nd September 1914 and trained at Combermere Barracks, Windsor until commissioned in 3rd Leinster Regiment on 13th February 1915. He was nicknamed “Tin Belly” because of his service with the Life Guards. John went to France on 9th June and was attached to 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Having been wounded at Ypres on 26th June, he was evacuated to Britain. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 31st July and returned to France in time for the Battle of Loos as bombing officer of 7th Leinster.
On 3rd September 1916 at Guillemont, France, he performed a deed for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. During a heavy engagement, Lieutenant Holland, not content with bombing hostile dug-outs, fearlessly led his troops through our own artillery barrage and cleared a great part of the village in front. He started out with 26 troops and finished with only five after capturing some 50 prisoners. By this gallant action he undoubtedly broke the spirit of the enemy and saved many casualties.
John married Frances Grogan at the Cathedral in Queenstown on 15th January 1917. They went on to have two children – Niall Vincent (born in 1918 in St Asaph, Wales) and Norman Joseph (born in 1922 in Colwyn Bay, Wales). Sadly, Niall was killed in action during World War II. He was presented with the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 5th February 1917. He was then promoted to Captain and became an instructor with No 16 Officer Cadet Battalion at Kimmel Park, Rhyl (1917-1919). He was then seconded to the Indian Army as a Lieutenant from 31st October 1919. He was attached to 2/26th Punjabis and later served with 10th Duke of Cambridge’s Own Lancers (Hodson’s Horse). He retired in September 1922.
John joined the Colonial Service in Kenya until 1936, then returned to Britain, where he worked in a number of civil service departments, including the Passport Office and Land Settlement. The family settled in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. He was appointed a Captain in the Royal Artillery Territorial Army Administrative Officer in June 1939 with seniority from March 1939, but resigned that commission to then serve in the Indian Army until 1941, when he was invalided out and took up a position with the Ministry of Food, being granted the honorary rank of Captain.
John and Frances were invited to live in Tasmania by their youngest son, Norman, in 1955. They settled at Gellibrand House, New Town. John attended the VC Centenary Celebrations at Hyde Park, London on 26th June 1956, travelling on SS Orcades with other Australian VCs. John died at St John’s Park Hospital, Hobart, Tasmania on 27th February 1975. His funeral, with full military honours, on 1st March 1975, included 200 marching troops, six Majors to carry his coffin and four young officers to carry his medals. He was buried in Cornelian Bay Cemetery with his wife.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals are held privately.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: CORNELIAN BAY CEMETERY, HOBART, AUSTRALIA. RC SECTION N-D, LOT 63
Courtesy of Gravesites of Tasmania
War Illustrated, 11th November 1916
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin (Nov 2016 - Aidan Kavanagh)