Army-Navy peal 1914: Frederick Augustus Holden (1884-1931)

This post continues the series on the eight men who rang the first peal by members of the Armed Services, following on from the previous post on William Austin Cooke.

Flight Sergeant Frederick Augustus Holden (31 August 1884-6 August 1931). Served 23 September 1904-11 January 1928.

On his enlistment in the Royal Navy Holden stated he was born in Bath on 31 August 1884, but no birth registration has yet been found. The 1891 census however, while agreeing about the place of birth, states his age as eight (putting his birth in 1882 or 1883, but again no birth registration). His short obituary in The Ringing World in 1931 describes him as about 48. In 1891 he was living at 19 Queen Street, Aldershot, with his grandmother, Emma Squire, a 58-year-old laundress. She is listed as married, but her husband was not present. By 1901 they were both with his aunt, Constance S Sykes and her daughter Vera Isabel Sykes, at 8 Camden Cottages, Church Walk, Weybridge. Emma was now widowed, but though aged 69 still working as a laundress. No occupation is shown for Constance (29), and she is listed as married and only as wife to head of household, but again her husband is not present. A wide range of birthplaces are given: Constance in Cork, Vera in London and Emma in Exeter – was there previous history of military service in the family? To add to the confusion, there a baptismal register entry for Frederick Augustus Holden in Weybridge on 1 April 1898, giving his date of birth as 1 September 1882, and his parents’ names as Henry and Georgina, and Henry’s occupation as storekeeper. Interestingly several of the baptisms around this time were of teenagers. The 1891 census does list a Henry (46), a wine merchant, and Georgina R Holden (28) living at 13(?) London Street, Paddington (right next to Paddington Station). Henry was born on the Isle of Wight and Georgina on the Cape of Good Hope. They also had an 11-month-old daughter, May R, born Kilburn. They have not been traced in the 1901 census.

Also then living in Weybridge was Alfred Winch (listed on the roll of honour as a Leatherhead ringer), who would also go on to become a well known bellringer. At 21, he was a few years older than Holden, but was also working as a house painter. The Bell News of 24 August 1901 (V20 p 201) reports them ringing together at Guildford on 14 July. Holden rang his first peal, at Staines, Middlesex, on 2 November 1901 (treble to Grandsire Triples). He and Winch also rang at All Saints’ Fulham and Holy Trinity, Barking Road. The following year he was also elected a member of the Surrey Association, listed as a Leatherhead ringer (which was also Winch’s tower – Bell News 5 April 1902, V20 p578). John Webb was elected a member at the same time. The rest of the year included various further ringing with Winch in Surrey and nearby. In March 1903 it appears Holden was living at Providence Villa, Fairfield Road, Leatherhead, as that was the address published in Bell News when asking a former ringer at Staines to get in touch with him. The rest of 1903 and into 1904 followed a similar pattern of ringing. The 27 February 1904 issue of Bell News (V22, p587) carries an advert from him seeking work as painter “constancy preferred”, and giving his address as 31 Russell Road, Wimbledon, SW (the same road on which Stanley Smith, of Mitcham, and his family lived). The same advert continued to appear for a couple of months. On 7 May 1904 he rang his 50th peal, rung for the Surrey Association but at All Saints’ Fulham. The band also included Winch, Arthur Otway (both of Leatherhead), J H B Hesse (Kingston).

Presumably that constancy of work never materialised, and that was why, on 23 September 1904, Holden went to a recruiting office in London and enlisted in the Royal Marines Light Infantry. On enlistment his next-of-kin was listed as his mother, then resident at 17 Wickham Gardens, Brockley (at some subsequent point it seems she remarried, and is listed as Mrs G R Ellis, of St Kitts, Colebrook Road, Bexhill-on-Sea). He was described as being 5 foot 7 and four-tenths inches, fresh complexion, dark brown hair and grey eyes. He had a tattooed back and several dots tattooed on his left forearm. For the next year he was based at the RMLI Recruit Depot at Deal. Initially it appears he had little chance to ring. He may be the Holden mentioned as taking part in handbell ringing at a meeting of the Canterbury District of the Kent County Association at Ash-next-Sandwich on 4 March 1905 (Bell News, 1 April 1905, V24, p38). He evidently obtained leave over Easter 1905 and was part of the band which rang four peals in three days on the Quex Park bells, and three more peals at nearby churches (Holden rang in only two of those). They began on Easter Eve (Saturday 22 April) with a peal of Stedman Cinques (Holden’s first peal on 12), and rang two more different compositions on Easter Day. Holden’s contribution at Quex finished on Monday with a peal of London Surprise Major (the first peal of London on the bells, and also William Pye’s 600th peal). Some of the band then went on to St Mary, Elmham, for another peal of Surprise Major, and Holden then rejoined members of the band at Lyminge for Superlative Surprise Major still on Monday. They finished with Stedman Triples at Mersham on Tuesday 25 April. He was then present at the annual meeting of the Canterbury District held at Walmer (with ringing also at Upper Deal) on 20 May, this time it is reported that F Holden took part in ringing Grandsire Caters on handbells at the conclusion of the meeting (probably making it more likely it was him at Ash in March).

He completed his training at Deal in September 1905, and was posted to the Chatham Division on 21 September. He again seems to have had a bit of a break from ringing around this time, with the next reported ringing being at Deptford following the watch night service for the New Year, and no further peals identified until 13 January 1906, when he rang his 100th peal, Kent Treble Bob Major, at Aylesford. Ringing the treble was his future father-in-law, William Haigh. Not satisfied with an ordinary peal, this was of 8000 changes, the longest length of major by all the ringers. Holden conducted the peal from the tenor, also ringing was a naval man, Samuel Taylor (Bell News 27 January 1905 V24, p560). There was a fuller breakdown of his peals published on 17 February 1906, p599, which states they had been rung in 53 different towers across 9 counties, he had conducted 23 of the total. Possibly he was the man reported as just A Holden ringing in a quarter peal of Stedman Triples at St Margaret’s, Rochester on 25 March.

On 9 June Holden embarked aboard HMS Vindictive for his first experience at sea. This was a brief voyage, he returned to Chatham on 5 July. Obviously unable to ring during that time, he kept his hand in with composing. A composition of his, for a peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was published on 7 July 1906 (Bell News, V25 p166), but the following week it was pointed out that it was false. He conducted a quarter peal of Stedman Triples at Tunbridge Wells on 8 July. This was followed by a quarter peal of Double Norwich at Greenwich on 10 August after a failed peal attempt. The following day saw another QP in the same method at Cliffe-at-Hoo (Bell News, 18 August 1906, V25 p238). On the 16 August he rang a QP of Superlative at Gillingham and on 19 August Stedman Triples at Rochester Cathedral. William Haigh again rang in both of these (Bell News, 25 August 1906, V25 p249). His ringing was then brought to a close for a while as he embarked for a more extended tour of duty aboard HMS Minerva in early September 1906. She appears to have been based in the Mediterranean with his service record noting that he passed his regular musketry test in Malta in 1907 and 1908. He did manage to send home a composition of Treble Bob Major which was published on 25 July 1908.

Holden returned to Chatham on 23 September 1908. Almost immediately he headed on a ringing holiday to Taunton where he joined local ringers in various towers. He was promoted to corporal on 3 October. On 17 October he travelled to London where he met a party of ringers from Taunton, returning his visit, and rang at various towers with them. The following day he rang a quarter peal at St Martin-in-the-Fields for the Cumberland Youths. He rang in various places elsewhere in Kent and London during the rest of the year and early 1909.

On 20 February 1909 he was posted to the cruiser HMS Endymion which was based at Sheerness. In July 1909 he was briefly posted to HMS Vivid, the Devonport naval base, but returned to Endymion before the end of the month. Though a home posting, no further ringing has been traced until late September. He rang at Lewisham on 23 September, and Greenwich on 3 October. On 11 December 1909 he rang a peal of Double Norwich at Cuckfield in Sussex. He composed the peal, but it was conducted by one of the other ringers. On 2 January 1910 three ringing friends came aboard Endymion and they rang a touch of Grandsire Triples on handbells while moored at Sheerness. A slightly different lineup again rang Grandsire Triples on handbells at Sheerness on 10 May, but it’s not explicitly stated whether this touch was onboard ship. He was promoted to lance-sergeant on 18 May. He rang for Harvest Festival at Rainham on 5 October.

Holden was posted back to Chatham on 14 February 1911. He rang a handbell peal of Grandsire Caters at Hersham on 1 March (with G B Edser, one of the two Hersham ringers to be killed), and then again at Guildford on 7 March, and Stedman Caters (his first on an inside pair) the following day. This was followed by a tower bell of Stedman Caters at St Nicholas, Guildford, on 9 March, his first as conductor. On 18 March he rang in a peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Tunbridge Wells. On 21 March he transferred to the Royal Navy as Ship’s Corporal 2nd Class on probation (this meant he was acting as a ship’s policeman, reporting to the master-at-arms). Initially he was still based at Chatham (now described as HMS Pembroke), but he was posted to HMS Blonde, a brand new light cruiser, on 27 May. Before that posting he fitted in some handbell ringing at New Cross on 9 April and a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Chatham on 14 May (along with some Stedman later in the day). Blonde was destined to be flotilla leader for the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla. He conducted Kent Treble Bob at Harwich on 23 July. He was promoted to Ship’s Corporal First Class on 21 September. He was in Guildford for a handbell peal of Stedman Caters on 18 November, and in Harwich again for Bob Major in hand on 24 November (his first handbell peal as conductor). There were three more handbell peals at Harwich on 18 December, 20 December and 27 December. To finish the year he rang two handbell peals at Guildford on 31 December.

On 6 January 1912 Holden rang a peal of Stedman Caters at Yeovil and with much the same band at Taunton on 8 January, in this second peal he was the conductor. He was back at Harwich for a peal of Bob Major on 16 January, and a handbell peal on 26 January, and again on 29 January. This last peal comments that he’s about to leave Harwich where he was stationed, in order to be posted to Queensferry. On 18 February he conducted a quarter peal (of his own composition) at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh. On 22 April he rang a quarter peal on handbells at the George the Fourth pub, Brunswick Street, Haggerston. On 26 April he rang a handbell peal at Guldford and on 27 April he rang a peals of London Royal and Bristol Major at Wokingham. On 1 May he rang of peal of Cambridge Major at St John’s, Waterloo Road and on 4 May he rang his first peal of Cambridge Royal, at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, this was his 200th peal. He had conducted 60 of them, which now covered 95 towers in 13 counties, 17 were on handbells (of which he had conducted 4). On 12 May he conducted a peal of Stedman Caters at Leeds, Kent. On 5 August he reverted to being a Royal Marines corporal, presumably having decided that being a ship’s corporal was not for him. He returned to Chatham.

On 9 October he conducted a peal of Bob Major at Sittingbourne, this seems to have been the first peal he rang with fellow Royal Marine Corporal James Bennett, who would also ring in the 1914 Armed Forces peal. On 12 October he conducted a peal of Double Norwich at Rochester Cathedral, this was arranged for his old friend, Alfred Winch, and ringing the treble was William Cooke who would also be in the Armed Forces peal (Cooke’s name is actually given as Cook, so this was missed in the article on him). Holden and Cooke then rang together in a handbell peal at Gillingham on 15 October. This was Cooke’s first peal in hand, and the first by resident members of the Kent County Association. It also included William Haigh. On 2 November he was at Boxley, Kent, where ringing was taking place to mark the reopening of the bells after rehanging. From 28 November he was attached to the depot at Deal (according to a later report in The Ringing World this posting was to be for two years).

Holden’s ringing in 1913 seems to have started with a touch of Bob Minor at Deal on Sunday 5 January. On the professional front, he regained the third stripe he had briefly held previously, being re-promoted to lance-sergeant on 1 February. He conducted a peal of Double Norwich (of his own composition) at Chilham on 1 March. On 10 May he, Cooke and Bennett all took part in a peal of minor at Gillingham, also taking part were Ellis who was a friend of Holden from his time in Harwich, and also Alfred Winch. The following week he conducted a peal of minor at Deal, the first peal for three of the band. On 9 July he conducted a peal of Bob Major at Dover to mark the wedding of one of the local ringers. Percy Gibbs, who would be one of the other ringers in the Armed Forces peal, was also ringing – his first peal of major. He was clearly shaking up ringing in the Deal area, on 1 August he conducted a peal at Northbourne in six minor methods, for two of the other ringers it was their first peal of minor and for three their first peal in six methods. On 16 August Holden was in Portsmouth – whether primarily for work or ringing isn’t quite clear, but whichever it was he conducted a peal of Grandsire Triples at St Mary, Portsea, while he was there. He was there again (or still?) on 20 September when he rang Bob Major at St Thomas Becket, the 150th peal of his old friend, Alfred Winch, who conducted (the composition was Holden’s). By 16 October he was back in Kent where he conducted a peal of minor at Great Mongeham, the first on the bells, which had just been rehung. On 15 November he conducted a similar peal at Deal, on the treble, ringing his first peal, was another marine ringer, Norman A Jeffries who had been stationed at Walmer, but was about to leave for Stonehouse. He was back at Northbourne on 29 November when he conducted a peal in seven minor methods, a first for all the other members of the band, and his first as conductor. On 7 December he returned to Chatham. He rang a peal at Gillingham on 18 December, conducted by his now soon-to-be father-in-law, William Haigh. James Bennett was also among the band. This peal of Grandsire Triples marked the first anniversary of the reopening of the bells.

Holden’s wedding was at Gillingham on 27 December. His bride Gertrude Florence Haigh was the daughter of William Haigh. She was about 8 years younger than Holden, her birth registered in the Medway Registration District in the first quarter of 1892. The wedding was marked by ringing at Gillingham, with many Kentish ringers guests at the wedding, and the newly-weds then departed for Canterbury for their honeymoon. The nuptials were also marked by peals at Hackington (where the band included Percy Gibbs), at Milton-next-Gravesend (where the band included George Gilbert, who would also ring in the Armed Forces peal) and at Rolvenden. Holden’s stag night, perhaps unsurprisingly, seems to have taken the form of a peal of Double Norwich rung at Rainham, with the band including his old friend Winch (no report mentions it, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Winch had been his best man), his father-in-law, and also John H B Hesse.

It seems his marriage caused a short break from ringing – at least until the Forces peal at Gillingham on 8 January 1914. He conducted the peal of Bob Major to his own composition. He certainly seems to have been the most experienced conductor available to the band. He was promoted to full sergeant on 12 March. His ringing still seems to have been taking a bit of a back seat, with apparently no further peal until 9 May. This peal was of Bob Major, and again of Holden’s composition, but this time conducted by James Bennett. The band also included another Forces ringer, Corpl H B Bonney of the Essex Regiment, who was elected a member of the Kent County Association prior to the attempt. 6 June saw another peal at Aylesford, again conducted by Bennett, and this time they were also joined by Victor Jarrett who also rang in January.

On 28 June the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo. This rapidly developed into a diplomatic crisis. One of the first British military responses was to recall naval reservists and prepare vessels in the reserve for potential action. On 14 July Holden was posted to HMS Implacable a pre-dreadnought battleship (and so verging on obsolete). On 25 July he was posted back to Chatham, but that was short-lived, and on 31 July he was back aboard Implacable. War was declared on 4 August after Germany refused to respect Belgian neutrality. Implacable supported the Dover Patrol so remained around Kent for the initial part of the war. As a result Holden was the only member of the January band who was able to be present when the peal board to mark the achievement was unveiled in late October. However, it’s probably unlikely that he was able to be at home for the birth of his first child, Margaret Gertrude, on 9 December 1914.

Letter by Holden in newspaper

Gallipoli eyewitness account

In 1915 Implacable was attached to the force that was being built up in the Mediterranean in order to force an entry into the Black Sea. Holden subsequently wrote to the editor of The Ringing World providing an account of the buildup and the landings at W and X beaches on 25 April. This was published on 16 July. Also in support of the landings was HMS Goliath, whether Holden was aware of it or not at the time, aboard her was George Isaac Playle, brother of Alfred Arthur Playle, one of Holden’s fellow ringers in January 1914. Goliath was sunk by a Turkish destroyer on 12 May and George was among the 570 or her 700-man crew to be lost. On 22 May Implacable was detached from the fleet in the Dardanelles in anticipation of the Italian declaration of war on Austria-Hungary. She was sent as part of a detached squadron in the Adriatic supporting the Italian Navy. She arrived at Taranto on 27 May which would be her base for the next few months. On 5 October Holden was transferred to HMS Manzanita which appears to have been the RN depot ship at Taranto, largely concerned with the fleet of converted fishing boats that were serving as minesweepers and reconnaissance vessels in the Adriatic. He was home on leave around 17 September 1916 when he managed to ring at Rochester Cathedral on Sunday morning (with his father-in-law). His initial 12-year engagement would have expired around this time, although the war meant all engagements were extended by a year in any case. Since he would only have been conscripted if he had taken his discharge, he opted to extend his service to 21 years and a pension. On his return to the Adriatic he was transferred to HMS Queen, a battleship converted to be the new depot ship in Taranto. On 5 February 1917 he was posted home to Chatham. On 17 February he was ringing handbells at Gillingham, his father-in-law was also present, as was J B Hessey of Chertsey. On 24 February, again, at Gillingham, he rang with a united services band.

Towards the end of February Holden’s old friend Alfred Winch travelled to Kent so the two could catch up, Winch was about to be called up himself, though his service would prove to be all in the UK, as a private in the Labour Corps, as he put it later “no stripes, and no medals”. He remained at Chatham until June, he was posted to the new light cruiser HMS Ceres on 2 June. She joined the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow in July. He appears to have had some leave in October as he conducted a peal at Gillingham on 6 October – other ringers included his father-in-law, Victor Jarrett, and Private George Luff of Chiddingfold, and the following day he rang for service at Rochester Cathedral and St Margaret’s, Rochester. On 15 November a son was born, Frederick William, in the Medway registration district. On 2 December 1917 he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service (though his record notes he was to be regarded as lent only) and was rated Chief Petty Officer (aircraftsman), he was initially based at the RNAS depot at Crystal Palace. On 1 January 1918 he was posted to RNAS Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey, and on to RNAS Cranwell on 22 March.

On 1 April 1918 the Royal Air Force was formed, merging the personnel and equipment of the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Flying Corps to form a new, independent, armed service. Despite the earlier comment that he was only loaned to RNAS, Holden was among those transferred to the RAF, and despite his earlier decision that life as a Ship’s Corporal was not for him, his initial trade is shown on his new service record (AIR 79/2185/242677) as “Disclipinarian”. He had a fortnight back at Eastchurch from 5-19 June, but then returned to Cranwell where he was on the station staff. On 31 August 1918, he transferred to 56 Training Depot Squadron, 59 Wing (still based at Cranwell), he had leave around 22 September when he rang with a forces band back at Gillingham (this time conducted by a female VAD, E Goodship). James Bennett visited Lincolnshire in October, and Holden arranged ringing at Surfleet, Pinchbeck, Donington and Heckington on 5 and 6 October. On 14 December he rang a victory peal of Stedman Triples at Gillingham, conducted by his father-in-law, it also marked Gertrude Holden’s birthday. The peal also included Sapper Richard F Deal, he had emigrated to Australia in 1911 but returned in 1915 in order to join the Royal Engineers. Holden returned to the station staff at Cranwell on 19 December. He conducted a further victory peal at Sleaford on 28 December.

On 1 January 1919 Holden became a gunnery instructor. By 18 January he was back in Gillingham where he conducted a peal of Kent Major of his own composition. He conducted another peal back in Lincolnshire, at Heckington, on 15 February. On 21 April he conducted a peal at Sittingbourne, Kent, and on 25 April another at Hale Magna, Lincolnshire, with James Bennett visiting again. He appears to have spent a brief period at Halton Camp in Buckinghamshire in April, and also a period of leave that’s actually marked on his service record. He was then at Shrewsbury for a brief period at the end of May before being posted to RAF Uxbridge on 17 August. He had managed to fit in a peal at Gillingham on 12 July, this was in a new method named Victory Major for the occasion – as it’s name suggests it was rung to mark the celebrations for the signing of the various peace treaties. The peal was conducted by William Haigh, Holden’s father-in-law. The method had been created by Lincolnshire clergyman, Revd E B James some years previously, but never rung. Holden composed the calling for the peal.

Holden’s posting to Uxbridge gave him a chance to explore new bells, starting with conducting a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Hillingdon on 25 August. He followed this with a peal there on 10 November, noted as being rung on the eve of the first anniversary of the cessation of hostilities, and also to mark the birth of a son to Holden. His service record actually records the birth date of Leslie Arthur Holden as 11 November 1919, so the second part of the dedication may have been added after the fact. Leslie’s birth was registered in the Medway registration district as with those of his two older siblings. On 6 December Holden conducted a peal (of his own composition) of Double Norwich at Gillingham. This marked the wedding of Victor Jarrett to Violet Packer the same day. On 20 December he rang a date touch (an extended quarter peal) of 1919 changes at the wedding in Rainham of the daughter of W J Walker, another Kent ringer. On 26 December he conducted a peal of Stedman Caters at Canterbury Cathedral, and the following day he conducted a peal of Stedman Triples at Rochester Cathedral (to mark his wedding anniversary).

On 7 January 1920, Holden was posted back to Cranwell. According to a report in The Ringing World he was to serve at the RAF College Cranwell which had opened the previous November. In April, the Cumberland Youths published a draft roll of honour in The Ringing World. The roll included Holden (though his initials were given as F H), along with Bennett, (and of other Surrey men: Reginald Brough, H J Dewey, surname given as Deucy, and C J Matthews). On 17 April he rang a peal (of his composition) of Kent Treble Bob Royal at Surfleet, conducted by Alfred Pulling of Guildford. On 25 April he was one of four ringers to ring the first handbell touch in an aeroplane, a “super” Handley Page (which remained safely on the ground). The other three ringers were Miss K A Jutson, R Richardson and H R Richardson. They also rang in the sergeants’ mess. Apparently there had been plans in 1918 to attempt an airborne touch, with one of the members of that band smuggling another into Cranwell, and two other ringers then serving (S Bragg and S Riddell) also involved: but the weather was never suitable. On 9 May he conducted his own composition of Bob Major for a handbell peal at Glen Garth in Surfleet; on 15 May he conducted his own composition of Double Norwich to a peal at Caythorpe. On 20 June it was back to handbells for a peal of Bob Major in the village blacksmith’s shop, Long Bennington. These handbell peals involved Rupert Richardson and Kathleen A Jutson, presumably two of those also involved in the ringing at Cranwell previously. They returned to Cranwell on 9 August, and with the addition of Alf Pulling, who conducted, rang a peal of Bob Major on the fuselage of a Handley Page. On 18 September he cycled over 30 miles to take part in a meeting of the North Nottinghamshire Association at Tuxford. On 2 October he conducted a handbell peal of Bob Royal at Caythorpe – they had intended to ring on tower bells, but only five turned up. He finished the year with peal in various minor methods at Wellingore on 20 November (the first local band peal) and Double Norwich at Harmston on 18 December.

1921 began in similar fashion with a peal of Bob Major in hand at the house of F W Stokes in Blankney on 18 January, Double Norwich at Colston Bassett on 29 January, and back to Bob Major at Long Bennington on 30 January. Then a gap until 9 April with another handbell peal of Bob Major, this time at the schoolhouse in Dunston. A week later Holden rang his 250th peal, at Surfleet. The method was Double Bob Royal, the first time the method had been rung in Lincolnshire. A breakdown of his peals was published on 1 July, he had rung in 111 towers in 18 counties, with 486 other ringers. There then seems to have been another gap in his peal ringing, until 10 September when he conducted Kent Royal at Ewerby. This appears to have been all for 1921.

1922 also seems to have got off to a slow start, perhaps because he had a new job in the armament section (this seems to have followed a brief posting to the Marine and Armament Experimental Establishment on the Isle of Grain in January), with no peal found until 2 April when he conducted Bob Major in hand at Surfleet. The following week they were back at RAF College Cranwell, this time ringing in the Armament School, a peal of Bob Major in hand again. On 8 September Harold John Holden was born. The birth was registered in the Sleaford registration district, it seems that by now the family were living in Elmside, The Drove, Sleaford. On 16 September, Holden conducted a peal of Stedman Caters at Ewerby, with his father-in-law also ringing, presumably he had come up from Kent to see his newest grandson.

In 1923, no ringing has been found until 1 July, when he rang his first peal of Grandsire Triples in hand, at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford. This was where Alf Pulling was caretaker, and he conducted the peal. It is a little surprising that this was his first Grandsire in hand, but the report states it was after many attempts. He rang at the wedding of C Kennington and Elsie Heelas in Grimsby on 5 August. From 17 August to 19 September he was granted 28 days leave. During that time he conducted the first peal on the new (1921) ring at Rochester Cathedral, this was his own composition of Stedman Caters, rung on 8 September. This was also his father-in-law’s 150th peal, and the first peal on ten for John Haigh, who was perhaps Holden’s brother-in-law, or nephew? Several of the new bells were dedicated to individuals who had died in the First World War. Unfortunately the composition was subsequently found to be false (that is it contained a repeated row).

1924 again seems to have been quite light on ringing, with nothing traced until 28 June when he rang in the first peal on the new ring at his old haunt of Leatherhead. His friend Alfred Winch was also ringing, and conducted the peal. On 6 July he rang a quarter peal of Kent Major at Aldershot. On the August bank holiday he joined the meeting of the North Nottinghamshire Association at Sutton-on-Trent. No further ringing has been found in 1924, and nothing in 1925 until 1 July when he was back at Aldershot for a peal of London Surprise Major. He was rejoined by one of the 1914 Chatham band, CQMS George Gilbert, as well as his old friend Winch. He was involved in arranging a Lincoln Diocesan Guild meeting at Sleaford on 28 November, at which a new Sleaford District of the Northern Branch was formed. 1926 began with a meeting of the new district at Sleaford on 16 January, at which Holden was elected District Ringing Maaster, and on 23 January he conducted a peal of Grandsire Caters at Ewerby. On 25 February he conducted a peal of Grandsire Triples at Sleaford, rung to welcome the new vicar, the Revd Norton Howe. Also ringing was another RAF man, Corpl H W Moody. He does not seem to have rung another peal until 5 June, when he rang Superlative Surprise Royal at Ewerby. He was granted another 28 days leave from 31 July to 27 August. On 2 October he conducted a peal of Bob Major in hand at Westleigh House, Sleaford. Then James Bennett visited the area again, they attempted a peal of Grandsire Caters at Ewerby on 5 October but were unsuccessful, Bennett then conducted Kent Major at Heckington on 7 October. Holden and Bennett then joined the Elloe Deaneries branch meeting at Spalding on 9 October. On Christmas Eve he conducted a peal of Grandsire Triples at Sleaford. 1927 began with his re-election as District Ringing Master in a meeting at Sleaford on 29 January. Little ringing is reported for the remainder of 1927, though Holden did attend a ringing dinner in York on 17 September, and to finish the year he rang a peal at Holy Trinity, Guildford (then serving as the pro-cathedral of the new Diocese of Guildford) on New Year’s Eve, leading up to the watch-night service.

On 11 January 1928 Holden retired from the RAF after 23 years and 111 days service. He was eligible for pension, and also took on the Post Office Stores in Ewerby. He seems to have still been around the Guildford area at the point he was actually discharged, his service record shows he was at the cryptically named HGNA and Depot from 17 December (the writing is very unclear), so presumably that was somewhere in Surrey. He rang a peal at Leatherhead on 14 January, his old friend Winch was also in the band, and several other men named in the Surrey Roll of Honour were ringing, George Marriner, William T Beeson, Major J H B Hesse and Albert Harman. On 12 August he rang in the quarter peal of Stedman Triples which marked the reopening of the bells at Heckington after they were rehung (one suspects he had had quite a lot to do with this happening), the quarter was conducted by his father-in-law, William Haigh. On 25 August both men were ringing in a quarter peal of Grandsire Triples at Colston Bassett, Nottinghamshire – this followed a failed attempt at a peal of Bob Major. On Sunday 6 October he conducted a peal of Bob Major at Harmston. On 22 October he was part of the band ringing a peal of Stedman Caters on the bells of the campanile at Taylor’s Bell Foundry in Loughborough, James Bennett also rang. On 8 December he conducted the first peal on the bells at Heckington since their rehanging.

1929 seems to have been a slow year in ringing terms, with no peals found until 9 September when he rang in a peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal at Ewerby. As if to make up for this lack of ringing, eight of the band also rang a peal of Bristol Surprise Major at Heckington the same day. On 20 September he rang a peal of Bob Major in hand at Glynn Garth, Surfleet. 1930 shows an additional business venture, with The Ringing World of 21 February carrying an advert from him for “Eggs – Sitting from reliable stocks. White Leghorn and Wyandottes. Dates booked, 7s 6d per doz, free to nearest station.” However, no ringing has been traced in 1930. 6 January 1931 saw him conducting a peal of Grandsire Caters at Ewerby, the first by an entirely local band. It is stated that this was the third attempt at the peal, some of the attempts were probably the previous year. He conducted Grandsire Triples at Heckington on 14 February. His composition of Kent Royal was used by fellow Freemason ringers for a peal at St Dunstan, Stepney on 7 March though he was not ringing himself. He was present at the Lincoln Diocesan Guild, Northern Branch AGM in Sleaford in early July, and his composition again featured in a Masonic peal, this time of Kent Maximus, at St Leonard, Shoreditch on 25 July. He died on 6 August 1931, having entered a TB sanatorium at Bourne shortly before. He had probably contracted the disease during his naval service, it being rife in the damp and crowded conditions onboard ship. It was his health that had prevented him taking part in the Masonic peal of maximus shortly before. The funeral was at Ewerby on 10 August, with a fully choral service, his widow, four children and father-in-law all present, as were Masonic representatives, and of course, many ringers. Immediately after his interment in the churchyard, Grandsire Triples was rung over the grave on handbells, followed by halfmuffled Grandsire Caters on the tower bells. He left a reasonably large estate, worth £893 6s 1d. In the relatively short time he had lived in Ewerby he had taught a local band (as demonstrated by the peal earlier in the year). His loss was seen as a major one for ringing in the county. He had rung with many leading ringers, and his compositions meant his name was even more widely known. Some of his compositions are still in use today.

1 thought on “Army-Navy peal 1914: Frederick Augustus Holden (1884-1931)

  1. Pingback: Army-Navy peal 1914: Alfred Arthur Playle (12 March 1893-1980) | halfmuffled

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