Sunderland war widow sold bread for a penny a loaf to feed her children

The Memorial Standard.
The Memorial Standard.
0
Have your say

Who remembers the people left behind?

In 1916 Sunderland, there were dozens - perhaps hundreds of women - who found themselves widowed as their loved ones died serving their country.

A soldier watches over No Man's Land. Photo courtesy of PA.

A soldier watches over No Man's Land. Photo courtesy of PA.

The bloodiest of them all was the Somme. Wearside man Gunner John Porter Holmes died there of his wounds on the first day of the battle on July 1, 1916.

He was serving with the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

Back home, his wife Mary Elizabeth Holmes, of Back Nile Street, was devastated and grief stricken when news came of his death.

Her moving story comes to us thanks to author Philip Adams, who wrote a book all about the brigade, Idle and Dissolute: The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

They had a terrible struggle. Mrs Holmes made bread at home and sold it on the streets for a penny a loaf to help ends meet

Philip Adams

Today, we conclude our mini series on the Sunderland family with a look at the widow’s story.

Gunner Holmes left a wife and five children at home in Sunderland.

“They had a terrible struggle,” said Philip.

“Mrs Holmes made bread at home and sold it on the streets for a penny a loaf to help ends meet.

The 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

The 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

“Also, unbeknown to her family, Mrs Holmes placed a memorial in the Sunderland Echo, some of which are very moving indeed, each year until her death in 1972.”

One from 1916 read: “There is nothing left to answer, But his photo on the wall, But his faraway grave is the bitterest blow, None but an aching heart can know.”

Another from July 1918 said: “Sweet be your rest my dear husband, it is sweet to breathe your name, in life we loved you very dear.

“Sadly missed by his ever-loving wife and five children, mother-in-law, father-in-law. He died a hero. He answered the call.”

Author Phil Adams.

Author Phil Adams.

It was the dearest of loves - and proof of the true cost of war.