Wil­liam Hol­brook

BBC History Magazine - - Wwi Eyewitness Accounts - Peter Hart is the oral his­to­rian at the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum

Born in 1892 and brought up in Hornchurch, Wil­liam was re­cruited un­der­age into the Royal Fusiliers in 1908. He had be­gun serv­ing with the 4th Bat­tal­ion, Royal Fusiliers on the west­ern front in 1914.

Few sol­diers serv­ing in the Bri­tish Ex­pe­di­tionary Force in Novem­ber 1918 had been present at the bat­tle of Mons in 1914. Among them was Pri­vate Wil­liam Hol­brook of the 4th Royal Fusiliers.

Af­ter about a week they sent round to say that any man that had fought at Mons would be taken into Mons and given a lun­cheon. They found about 10 of us! We were taken to the town hall for lunch. We’d had noth­ing like that for four or five years: all the sil­ver was on the ta­ble, cof­fee cups, things I’d never had be­fore. The old mayor made a speech, thank­ing us for what we’d done! He said: “The cof­fee you’re drink­ing has been buried for 4½ years, buried on the first day the Ger­mans were here in Mons and it’s just been taken up! You’re the first peo­ple to have real cof­fee for four and a half years in this coun­try!”

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