Sergeant Percy Hollings

Sergeant, 286th Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. Service number 338608.

Early life:

Percy was born on February 20, 1887 in Oakworth. Parents George and Eliza Hollings. He was baptised at Christ Church in Oakworth on August 14, 1887. His family were living at Dockroyd and his father George was working as a gardener.

A British Howitzer gun from the Great War. Picture shows about 20 men sitting on a gun and tractor being towed along a country lane.

Possible photo of a howitzer from 286 Battery being towed. The Sergeant on the right of the photo may actually be Percy Hollings.

In 1891 he was four years old and living at 15, Dockroyd in Oakworth with his parents, four sisters and one brother. His father was still a gardener. By 1901 he was fourteen and living at 2, Brook Row in Oakworth with parents and three sisters. Percy was at school although he may have been working part time as a wool spinner. Percy married Susannah Laycock in 1908. He would have been twenty-one and Susannah twenty-two years of age. The marriage was recorded in Keighley in the third quarter of the year.
By 1911 They had moved to 22, Park Avenue in Oakworth and Percy was a certificated Elementary School Teacher, employed by the Borough of Keighley Education Committee. Sadly, we don't know which school he was teaching with. They had three children, Olga, born in 1909; Clarence, born in 1910; and Marion who was under one month old and would have been born in March 1911.

War service:

A grey granite war memorial panel shaped like a headstone. It has 22 names inscribed on it.

Oakworth war memorial panel with Percy Hollings' name on it.

Percy enlisted at Keighley with the Royal Artillery and after a period of training would have been transferred to the Royal Garrison Artillery's 286th Battery. This battery had 8 inch howitzer guns which could angle their barrels high and send plunging fire down on targets with terribly destructive effect.
The German Army had launched their Aisne offensive and were moving forward very quickly, RGA Howitzers would have been very valuable pieces and they would not have wanted them to fall into the hands of the enemy as they could be used against our own armies. On May 27, the 286th battery had evacuated their position, travelling from Romain to Fismes, and appear to have been caught by the German push. Sixteen men from the 286th battery are recorded dead with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for that day. Five were buried at Beaurepaire French National Cemetery at Pontavert and one at Sissonne British Cemetery. The other ten men had no known grave, one of them was named on the Pozieres memorial and nine others were named on the Soissons memorial. One of these nine names was that of Sergeant Percy Hollings. There is no war diary available for this period of the battery's history which may mean they were caught and overwhelmed by the German offensive push, so nobody survived to tell the tale.

Post war:

A double photo of two sides of the Hollings Graves. the left image is the full mediaeval cross and tapered base with details of percy's wife, the right image is a memorial to Sergeant Percy Hollings wounded and missing in France May 27th 1918.

The Hollings family grave in Oakworth Cemetery.

Percy was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his war service.
He is remembered on the Oakworth War Memorial in Holden Park in Oakworth and on the Oakworth Wesleyan roll of honour in Oakworth Methodist Church.
In Oakworth cemetery the family grave headstone inscription reads: In Loving Memory of Sgt. Percy Hollings R.G.A. Reported wounded & missing in France May 27th 1918. Aged 32 years.

Information sources:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915
1911 England Census
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Oakworth War Memorial
Oakworth cemetery - Family Headstone inscription
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920

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