Thomas Holman, great-grandfather of Carl Watts, the Green Howard Museum’s Learning Officer, worked as a boiler maker at the Wellington Foundry in Lincoln. At the outbreak of war the company which owned the foundry, Fosters, converted production from agricultural vehicles to war machinery. It was here that the first tanks were developed under the management of William Tritton.
Secrecy was of the utmost importance, and the original code name for the revolutionary new vehicle was ‘The water-carrier for Mesopotamia and Russia’. Bill Rigby, chief draughtsman and designer recounted in the mid-1980s that eventually a group of the boiler makers came to is office, fed up with the long winded code name. Their suggestion that it should just be referred to as ‘the bl**dy tank!’ has stuck with the vehicle and its successors ever since.
Thomas Holman is pictured with colleagues back row, third from the left in front of ‘Lurcher’ a Mark IV male tank in November 1917.
His brother George Edward Holman served with the 6th battalion Lincolnshire Regiment at Gallipoli, Egypt and France. The efforts of the brothers were combined on 15 September 1916, as 6th Lincs were at the Battle of Flers Courcelette – the first battle to see the use of the tank.
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Thomas was born around 1894 in Appleby Westmorland and settled in Hawes before the Great War. He married a local girl and had a family of 4 young children. He was a good footballer and played in goal for Hawes Football Club for many years in local leagues. He was also a member of the Hawes Conservative Club billiards team and secretary of the Hawes Brass Band. When he enlisted in 1914 Thomas was the first married man from Hawes to join up. Thomas joined the 6th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment and saw action in the latter stages of the 1915 Dardanelles campaign and in February 1916 they were in Egypt. The Battalion embarked for France arriving at Marseilles on July 1st and then travelled to billets in Arras taking over trenches at Agny. In September 1916 they were entrenched in Thiepval area where on the 14th they encountered severe fighting resulting in heavy losses for the 6th Battalion, five officers and 130 men dead. One of the dead was Thomas, killed instantly by shellfire. At the time of his death Thomas had the rank of Corporal. His body was recovered and he is buried at Lonsdale cemetery, just north of Albert.
Betty was born on the 3rd September 1896 in Clifton in the Bootham area of York. She came from a well off middle class background and was educated at home until she was 14 whereby she was despatched to boarding school at St Georges Wood in Haslemere Surrey. From school she went to Brussels to study music. In 1913 the family moved to Harrogate where Betty’s father, Arthur, established himself as a leading estate agent. Betty had a younger brother born in 1901, James Arthur Radford, in which in her letters referred to him as JARS. Both Betty’s parents were active supporters of the YMCA. Her mother Catherine served throughout the war as chair of the YMCA’s Women’s Auxiliary. Betty appears to have acquired early in her life a high sense of civic duty. Betty and her parents were part of the group that travelled to London to help with the Belgium Relief Fund after the outbreak of WW1. They would be involved in the transferring of refugee families to the Harrogate area from their encampment at Alexandra Palace. In January 1916 one of Betty’s aunts went to France to manage a YMCA canteen and Betty was determined to join her. She set off on February 11th, aged 19, to join her in the St Denis Hut outside Paris. She completed her time at St Denis, took some home leave and returned to France to become a driver at Etaples in April 1917. Betty was extremely young at the time…
Jennifer Bullen visited the museum to show us the memorial plaque to Lt Henry Stanley Tempest Bullen, her father-in-laws elder brother. Harry Bullen of ‘D’ Battery, 251st Brigade of the Royal Field Arilltery was Killed in Action on 14th April 1917 during the Battle of Arras (an action launched in support and as a diversionary action to the larger French offensive on the Chemin des Dames). He died at the age of 20 and is buried south of Arras at Beaurains Road Cemetery, which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. His mother, Edith Bullen lived in Gosforth, Northumberland. A memorial window to Lt Bullen was erected in St Nicholas Church, Gosforth following the war.