Stories of Remembrance

Army, First World War (1914-18)The diaries and letters of Roy Holloway,From Gallipoli, to the fields of Belgium & France and a POW camp in Germany

Roy described it in these terms: 'At the landing we went ashore in navy motor-boats. The fighting against the Turks took place about two miles away in the hills. The landing should have taken place at a stretch of low beach land half a mile away. Luck was with us as this stretch of beach was full of barbed wire under the water. No one would have escaped from that as they would have had to jump into waist deep water from the boats carrying heavy packs. We'd have drowned'
Les Holloway, Son of Roy Holloway

Roy Holloway, my father, was just an ordinary Aussie bloke, loved his sport but not schooling. His father was a gold fossicker - with very little luck. Roy grew up in tough times. He lost his Mother at 10 years of age and was then shuffled between other members of his family. Roy was finally raised in Ballarat by his Grandparents.

Like many other ordinary Aussie blokes, Roy was keen to be part of the 'great overseas adventure' proposed by the then Australian Government. He signed on at Broadmeadows on September 10, 1914 at the age of 17 years and 10 months for King and Country and a chance to see the world - and I suspect, escape the woes at home. He forged his Father's signature. When his Father, Henry, heard Roy had enlisted Henry sent Roy's elder brother Bill to Melbourne to get him out. 'But I didn't quit', said Roy, 'that's the first fight I ever won against Bill. I wasn't going home'.

Their world was soon turned on its head at a place called Gallipoli in the Dardanelles, and from there it just got worse for them in France and Belgium, and for my Father, in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany.
 

A greater part of my Father's story comes from letters he sent home to his sister, Lottie (Icke) and a diary he kept from the end of May 1916, until the end of May 1918 - even through part of the time he was a prisoner-of-war. The letters were not known to my family until 2006, 94 years after the Gallipoli campaign. The letters and diary reveal a range of emotions from enlistment, training at Broadmeadows and the flies and heat in Egypt to the landing at Gallipoli. At the landing Roy described it in these terms; 'At the landing we went ashore in navy motor-boats. The fighting against the Turks took place about two miles away in the hills. The landing should have taken place at a stretch of low beach land half a mile away. Luck was with us as this stretch of beach was full of barbed wire under the water. No one would have escaped from that as they would have had to jump into waist deep water from the boats carrying heavy packs. We'd have drowned'.


From Gallipoli Roy's brigade moved to the mud and killing fields of Belgium and France, and for Roy particularly, the battles at Pozieres and Bullecourt. Along the way Roy spent time recuperating at Lemnos Island during the Gallipoli campaign and recovering in London from wounds suffered in the battle at Pozieres. He was again wounded at Bullecourt, captured by the Germans and interned for 20 months at a prisoner-of-war at a place called Soltau.


Roy was finally released from the camp and returned home after nearly five years of service to a glorious welcome by his family, the citizens of Ballarat. He received a certificate of recognition from the Lexton Shire Council where he lived for a time with his Father, and a letter of gratitude from King George V. At the family welcome home party Roy met Adele, my Mother. Roy lived a long and fulfilling life raising six children, five girls and one boy, myself. He also spent four years of non-active home service in WW2 from 1940 to 1944.
 

In writing the story of Roy's war time history I became engrossed in his incredible journey, so much so that along with my second eldest son, Byrce, I took part in the dawn service at Gallipoli with the Conservation Volunteer Group in 2009. To complete the journey we joined a private tour of the Western Front in July last year. During that tour I was very proud to accept the honor of reading the Anzac Ode at the Menin gate nightly service.
 

Whatever people may think about the Gallipoli campaign and the events surrounding the war in France and Belgium, those years provided a range of fascinating and compelling stories, stories that are still being recounted to this day, 98 years after the beginning of the ’Great war’ in 1914. Almost every time I walk into book shop there on the shelf is another account of the conflict. Roy's story, never seen in the public domain, is not totally unique as millions of soldiers involved in the conflict experienced the same raw emotions, the despair and hopelessness of the war and how they missed their family and friends at home. It was said the world would never see another 'Great war'. How wrong they were!


Roy Victor Holloway 12 Platoon C Coy, 14th Battalion, 4th Brigade A.I.F. (Postscript: Part of Roy's collection of material are black and white photos of the prisoner-of-war camp at Soltau. For the life of me I don't know how he could have managed to have them in his possession. They are excellent quality).
 

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