Sunday, May 01, 2011

Professor Richard Holmes, CBE (29 March 1946 – 30 April 2011)

It was with great sadness that I woke up this morning to hear of the death of Richard Holmes at the far too early age of 65..

I had the great good pleasure to see Professor Holmes give two lectures, one at the D-Day museum in Portsmouth where he lectured on the personal experience of the soldier in the field, and how the battlefield has changed over the years, and once a few years ago [click here] where he gave a lecture on his recently published book "Dusty Hero's" about the 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment in Iraq in 2004 (he was their colonel, an honorary role that you could tell he was inordinately proud of).

Of all the military historians, Professor Holmes was without a doubt my favourite, his particular "angle" was always that of the 'common soldier' - how he felt, how he lived, what he did, and the subject matter was endlessly fascinating...

Of the multitude of books he wrote (and the full lists can be found in the links below), I particularly liked his book on Marlborough (which bought that same personal focus, a particular hero of his..), but "Redcoat" is without a doubt just brilliant.. he wrote with compassion & humour, and his style particularly resonated with me.

There are no details on what caused his death, but one would surmise that an illness of some sort was involved, as on both occasions I saw him he was remarkably spry - he was a horseman, and I still remember those scenes in his television documentary on Wellington in India where he rode across one of the battlefields...

On a purely selfish level, I will miss his unique micro histories of the worlds great battlefields and soldiers very much...

RIP, and condolences to his family...

More on his life, and obituaries, here:

~ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Holmes_%28military_historian%29
~ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13251220
~ http://www.le.ac.uk/ebulletin-archive/ebulletin/publications/2000-2009/2006/07/npfolder.2006-07-11.5678371783/holmesoration.html

10 comments:

  1. Very Sad indeed He was a fine historian and a great gentleman.

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  2. He has left his own mark on History and for that he can be proud.

    Sad Day

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  3. Very sad news indeed. I always found his books informative and educational in the main, thought provoking always.

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  4. Very sad to hear this, he was always a pleasure to listen to but have never read anything he wrote, will try and rectify that.

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  5. Sad and shocking news. Enjoyed his TV progs immensely and read Redcoat which was also good. Wish I had had the chance to attend one of his lectures. Yahoo says he was battling against myeloma, a cancer that affects the bone marrow and weakens the immune system, eventually passing away from pneumonia. I'm sure he went down fighting. A great loss.

    Davy

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  6. Yes, terribly sad news. I gather from comments I saw on a Forces blog that they'd heard he was getting better so his death came as a shock to many who knew him, it seems. He sounds like a thoroughly decent, genial and generous chap, too, from comments I've read. His books that I've read are all very enjoyable; my favourite is "Riding The Retreat", a mix of travelogue and history where he road the route of the British army's retreat from Mons in 1914 as well as recounting the history of it. It's a wonderfully engaging read. At least he had a creative and successful, if too short, life and received much acknowledgement for his work as historian and TA soldier too. I'm sorry I never met him.

    David
    http://nba-sywtemplates.blogspot.com/

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  7. P.S. That should be "rode" the route, not road! That's what tiredness does...

    Cheers,

    David.

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  8. Very Sad news indeed.

    Steve. Could you contact me at: brown_peter4@sky.com with regard to publishing some of your stuff?

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