How a Sunderland boy foresaw his dad’s death at the Somme - in the flames of a fire

The Somme battfield.
The Somme battfield.
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Jackie Holmes knew little about his grandfather’s heroism in the First World War.

His grandad – Sunderland man Gunner John Porter Holmes – died of his wounds on July 1, 1916, whilst serving with the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery at the Battle of the Somme.

The Brigade.  Pic from Idle and Dissolute, The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

The Brigade. Pic from Idle and Dissolute, The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

The only information Jackie had on his grandad came from his grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Holmes, and from author Philip Adams who wrote a book all about the brigade titled ‘Idle and Dissolute the History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery’.

Jackie, now 84 himself, told of the spine-tingling story that is still relayed in the family. It is all about the way that his dad, Ernest Edward Austin Holmes, realised his father had met his death. He’d had a premonition that his father John had been injured in battle.

“He was only about seven or eight and he was lighting the fire,” said Jackie. “He saw it in the flames.

“He said ‘mam, I have just seen my dad carried off the battlefield’. She chased him out the house.”

My dad was only about seven or eight and he was lighting the fire at the time. He saw it in the flames. He said ‘mam, I have just seen my dad carried off the battlefield’. My grandmother chased him out the house

Jackie Holmes, grandson of Gunner John Porter Holmes

But Ernest’s premonition was correct. Gunner Holmes had indeed been mortally wounded on the first day of that infamous battle. By the end of the day, he remained the only man from his regiment to be killed – although many others would perish in the weeks that followed.

Jackie added: “Apparently, his arm was blown off but he stayed by his gun post until he died.”

Author Philip, who has researched the stories of many of the Brigade members, has done his own studies.

He said the family which was left behind in Sunderland “had a terrible struggle”.

The Blue Plaque to the brigade at Houghton Hall.

The Blue Plaque to the brigade at Houghton Hall.

In the third part of the Gunner Holmes story next week, we look at how his widowed wife tried to keep the large family going.

Did a relative of yours serve at The Somme? Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk

Author Phil Adams.

Author Phil Adams.