The National Federation of Womens' Institutes was contacted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) who invited WIs to get involved in its new Living Memory project, which is running throughout summer and autumn 2016. The Living Memory project offered funding and resources to community groups to enable them to visit and remember those buried in local sites in the UK throughout the centenary of the Somme from 1st July to 18th November 2016. On their web site (https://www.thewi.org.uk/media-centre/news-and-events/current-news-and-events/cwgc-living-memory-project) they outlined the project:
Of the 300,000 war graves or commemorations that are cared for by the CWGC here in the UK 2,000 belong to women who died while serving in the two World Wars. The CWGChave produced resources to help WIs identify a CWGC site near them, do some research about some of those buried in that site and stage a commemorative event - in their own way and reflecting their own interests - to remember those who lost their lives in the 141 days of the Somme.
Crosthwaite and Lyth WI identified one such lady, Louise M Holme OBE, on the war memorial in Winster Churchyard, along with her CWGC headstone and decided to find out more about her. Charles Crosbie from Winster had already been intrigued by the head stone and had tried to find out more about her. He had written about Louise in the Two Valleys Parish News (Nov 2010). She had been a volunteer in Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps service number 4100, during WWI and died on 28th May 1920, aged just 28. He wondered why she had a war grave when she died 18 months after the end of the war and why had she been awarded an OBE? He contacted the London Gazette over the award but they had no details in their records.
QMAAC was founded in 1916 as Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC); it changed to QMAAC in 1918 and was disbanded in 1921. Most of the members stayed at home but over 9,000 served in France. The corps had non-military status with grades not ranks used in the organisation. Although over 57,000 women served in the Corps most of the records were destroyed in the Blitz in 1940. Sadly, this was the case with Louise.
In June 2012 another article in Two Valleys News reported that an Amanda Poole, who had been corresponding with Jean Turner had contacted Charles, giving information about the Holme Family. She believed that her great grandmother, Isabelle, was Louise's sister. She had an article 'A woman among those who fell' from Westmorland Gazette (Oct 30th 1920). It explained that Louise had been awarded the OBE 'because she served with such distinction and died shortly after her return home because health was so undermined by her experience'.
This is where Crosthwaite WI took over the research. Our first action was to try and contact Amanda Poole, as we were keen to find a living relative with whom to share our celebrations of her life. Unfortunately Amanda's contact details were lost when Charles' computer failed and we have been unable to find her. Although Louise had four sisters, the only Isabella died aged 3 months and the others were buried under their maiden names. Perhaps there's an illegitimate child lurking somewhere.
Under the guidance of Christine Gibson a small team of volunteers was detailed to different tasks, firstly to find more about her life and her family and secondly to arrange some form of tribute to Louise. This is what we have found so far.
Louise Mary Holme(s)
Her birth certificate revealed that Louise Mary Holmes was born on 13 November 1891 at Ellerigg, Ambleside to John Holmes, a cart driver and Mary née Black.
In the 1881 census her parents were living at Mill row Westmorland with their 3 month old daughter, Mary I Holmes. John and Mary had only just married at the time of the census and baby Mary's birth was registered under the name Mary Isabella H (presumably Holmes) Black so was obviously born before their marriage. Sadly baby Mary must have died shortly after the census was taken.
The 1891 census had registered the family at Edinboro, Ambleside and with an elder sister, Emma A (Agnes) Holmes.
By 1901 the family were living at Lingmoor View, Langdale and there were two more daughters, Jennie M (McDonald), 6 and Georgina E (Elizabeth), 4 and two male boarders. Emma, who would have been 15, was not present and we can find no record in the census or a death record. She may have been working elsewhere, as a servant and fallen through the net.
By 1911 Louise had left the family home at Beconsfield (sic) Terrace, Windermere and moved to 113, Old Christchurch Road, Bournmouth, a house with 9 rooms. The head of the house, 30 year-old Agnes Spalding, was married and a dressmaker and employer. She was living with her father, a boarder, a servant and 19 year-old Louise, her assistant, who was an assistant dressmaker. Louise appears to have been very adventurous, as, when looking at her ancestors, they were closely bonded to the soil of an area now Cumbria. None appear to ventured far.
The birth and census records, all clearly give the surname as Holmes with the 's' although her QMAAC service, death records and grave omit the 's'. Her father appeared to be illiterate having marked his marriage certificate with an 'x'. His mother, Isabella Holme is recorded with out the 's' and it is possible that John had not noticed and corrected the appearance of a stray 's' on census and certificates as he would have given the registrar the name verbally.
1911 was the last census available to the public, so we do not know how Louise came to volunteer for Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps. Interestingly the records henceforth appear to omit the 's' from Holmes. She was a clerk with the service number, 4100 The next we learn is that she had been awarded the OBE 'because she served with such distinction and died shortly after her return home because her health had been so undermined by her experience'.
There has been difficulty in finding records of the award of this OBE and it would appear that it was actually the Medal of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a lower class of order given to rank and file members of WAAC and other organisations. There is a record in London Gazette 20 Jan 1920.
According to her death certificate, Louise died 19th May at Ninevah, Winster, Undermillbeck, of tuberculosis of the lungs, certified by J Cochrane Henderson, MB. Her sister, Jennie of Ninevah, Winster was present at the death. The house is the last cottage on the left in Winster, travelling to Bowness.
She is buried in Winster Churchyard and has an official CWGC headstone next to the family tombstone on which she is also recorded.
Louise's Family history
This information has been sourced almost entirely from the subscription website, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk) and a genealogical tree has been deposited on the site, where we hope it might attract the attention of a living relative, also searching the family. It is available to anyone subscribing to Ancestry on http://trees.ancestry.co.uk/tree/103244700/family. We have found several trees on the site including Louise's family and have made contact with one or two tree holders. Unfortunately Louise's branch of the family appears to be a very distant branch. However we live in hope!
The most logical way to record the family history of Louise is as on the trees following the Black family and then the Holmes family forward in time from the first recorded ancestor. The generations are numbered with Louise as generation zero and her ancestors as negative figures and descendants as positive. The Black family are printed in Blue and the Holmes in red. Names in bold unlined text are direct lines to Louise. Sources for the information are available but not all are recorded here for ease of reading.