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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William was born in 1897 in the village of Thoralby, near Aysgarth, in the North Yorkshire Dales. Birth registrations show he was born in the first quarter of that year. He was the youngest son of farmer John and his wife Alice, living at Town Head Farm. The 1901 census shows he had two older brothers, Ralph 10 and John Hunter 7, and a sister Elizabeth 9. However, the 1911 census only shows William, and by that time his mother was a widow at 42. Also at the time, three boarders lodged at the farm. William attended the local school and in his teens became a valued member of Aysgarth Amateur Dramatic Society. At the outbreak of war, aged 17, he enlisted in the 10th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He went to France in October 1915. By the onset of the 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917 William was now a Corporal. It was during this offensive on the 3rd October that the 10th Battalion was involved in an action on Broodseinde ridge. It was during the heavy shelling on the 4th that William was killed. His body was never found. William is commemorated on a panel at the Tyne Cot Cemetery. He was just 19 years of age when he died.
Vicky Hurwood visited the museum recently, amongst her stories was one about her grandfather Henry (Harry) Manning. 165485 Gunner Henry Manning enlisted on 6 September 1916. From his Service Record, he served with the Royal Army Service Corps for a year and 160 days and with the Royal Field Artillery for two years and 335 days. His service was undertaken in Salonica, but his record also indicates 75 days in South Russia, as part of the British force involved in the Russian Civil War (Britain aimed to thwart the Bolshevik revolution and was keen to control the oil reserves at Baku). Harry left Russia due to suffering from malaria. Vicky recounts that her grandfather was once wounded in the leg, recovered and was sent back to the front, here he found that his goat (which he kept for milk) had been eaten by his mates! He told stories of the wet and mud and fungi growing on his clothing. Also of great sacrifice. By luck his unit were camped on the top af a ravine, when the rains came hard. By morning the ravine had filled up and men, horses, gun carriages were all being swept away by the torrent. This all just seemed just like a story to Vicky at the time he told her this. For his service Harry was awarded the British War medal and Victory medal.
William was the son of William and Mary Rutley of 8 Mabal Street, Middlesbrough. He enlisted in late 1914 and was posted to the 8th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. The 8th Battalion left for France in late August 1915 and occupied trenches in the La Rolanderie and Bois-Greniers districts throughout October, November and December. William is reported to have died of wounds on December 16th. He was 22 years of age. He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was buried at Sailly-sur-la Lys Canadian Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais.