Thomas William Holmes

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

General information

Last known residence:
380 9th Street East, Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada
Chicken Picker
Salvation Army

Army information

Canadian Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Owen Sound, Grey County, Ontario, Canada
 —  Canadian Mounted Rifles, 4th Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Cause of death:
Death post-war (unrelated)


Greenwood Cemetery
Plot: Unknown
Row: Unknown
Grave: Unknown

Distinctions and medals 3

Points of interest 6

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Place of work
#4 Enlistment place
#5 Location of medal-earning event
#6 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Thomas William Holmes was born on 14 October 1898. He was the son of John Robert and Mary Edith Scarff. When he enlisted, he lived at 380 9th Street East, Owen Sound, Ontario and worked as a chicken picker on a farm near Annan. He enlisted in Owen Sound on 20 December 1915 and served in the 147th Battalion. In early 1917, he was transferred to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, part of the 8th Canadian Brigade, of the 3rd Canadian division.

The 3rd Canadian Division attacked with the 8th Canadian Brigade on the left and the 9th Canadian Brigade on the right. The 8th Canadian Brigade attacked with the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles. The targets were Source Farm and Woodland Copse. The attack was launched at 5.40 am but the advance was held up by a pillbox on the north-east side of Wolf Copse. It was at this point that Private Holmes earned his Victoria Cross.

His citation in the London Gazette reads as follows: “For most conspicuous bravery and resource when the right flank of our attack was held up by heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from a ‘pill-box’ strong point. Heavy casualties were producing a critical situation when Pte. Holmes, on his own initiative and single-handed, ran forward and threw two bombs, killing and wounding the crews of two machine guns. He then returned to his comrades, secured another bomb, and again rushed forward alone under heavy fire and threw the bomb into the entrance of the ‘pill-box,’ causing the nineteen occupants to surrender. By this act of valour at a very critical moment Pte. Holmes undoubtedly cleared the way for the advance of our troops and saved the lives of many of his comrades.”

The 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles were able to capture Wolf Copse and secure the objective. But because the division had not advanced on their left flank, they had to retreat to a line about 275 metres behind their objective.

Thomas William Holmes survived the war and was discharged from the army as a sergeant. He married Annie Elda Middagh in 1921 and the couple had two children. After the war, he worked as a pilot for the Harbour Commission in Toronto. In 1935, his Victoria Cross was stolen during a burglary, but he was given a replacement. This replacement copy is currently kept at the Canadian War Museum. Holmes died on 4 January 1950 in Toronto, aged 51. His remains were interred at Greenwood Cemetery, Owen Sound, Ontario.

Sources 4

"No. 30471" The London Gazette (Supplement), 8 January 1918, 724.
Sources used
Honours and Awards Citation Cards. (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC)).
Sources used
Personnel Records of the First World War (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG 150, 1992-93/166, Box 4464 - 25).
Sources used
Snelling, Stephen. VCs of the First World War: Passchendaele 1917 (sl., Wrens Park Publishing, 2000), 234-245.
Sources used