- Wright, Ken
- Biographies and personal histories, History - WW1, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2009 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
During the months of September and October they were moved to the Ypres sector, then back to the Somme for the winter. Private Holdroyd joined his battalion in the field on 4 December and spent the first five months of 1917 engaged in bloody trench warfare from Bullecourt to Broodseinde in Flanders. The 1st Anzac Corps was eventually withdrawn from the line during May to rest and refit.
The British Allied Commander General Alexander Haig planned a new offensive around 20 September against Westhoek Ridge. For the task he chose the four Australian divisions of the 1st Anzac Corps, which by now had spent the past three months in the rear areas in Flanders. They had been enjoying what was possibly the finest rest ever given to British Empire troops in France. The depleted ranks had been filled by reinforcements and the training was said to have reached the highest peak attained by the AIF during the war.
On 16 September, after a night march through Ypres and out along a road that was quite often shelled by the Germans, the 1st and 2nd divisions took over the section of the battlefront on the main ridge at Glencorse Wood and a low spur to the north of it at Westhoek.
Private John Thomas Holdroyd never made it to his battalion’s allocated section of the front. His service records state he died of wounds on 16 September 1917 and that additional details of his death were unavailable at the time. Without further information it is only conjecture, but he may have been wounded by shellfire on the road enroute from Ypres to Glencorse Wood. Private Holdroyd is buried in the Menin Road South Military Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. ((Plot 1 Row Q Grave 38.))
These two men, Privates Read and Holdroyd, were fortunate inasmuch as they at least have a final resting place with a headstone. A place of reverence where a casual visitor may pause for a moment and if inclined, with head bowed, say ‘thank you.’ For the unknown thousands from that terrible war who have no known grave there are of course official records and monuments to their passing but they will never have someone pay their respects by their individual gravesides. To the religious, they are, ‘known only unto God.’ or they are destined to remain forever forgotten.
Read’s headstone at Kieta on Bougainville has no epitaph but Holdroyd’s headstone at Ypres in Belgium, thousands of miles apart and so far from their adopted country, has a fitting description that is suitable for them both. ‘Too far away, thy grave to see, but not too far to think of thee.’’
The whole purpose of this story and the words used is to create a mental image for the reader to go where the writer wants them to go. To attempt to build a picture so the reader can see what the writer sees. If I have been successful, please create a mental picture of yourself standing by the graves of these two men who are representative of all those who fell and with head bowed, say a small ‘thank you’ as a gesture to those who paid the ultimate price.