5331 Corporal William HOLLIDAY – Killed in Action 1 October 1917
William HOLLIDAY was born at Unley on 4 February 1895, the eldest of five children of James HOLLIDAY and Ada Eliza HOLLIDAY.
The family later moved to Victor Harbor where James HOLLIDAY built the Warringa Guest House on Flinders Parade. William was educated at the local public school and joined the junior cadets. He later enlisted in the militia forces and prior to his enlistment in the AIF on 24 January 1916, he ran a chicken farm just outside of Victor Harbor.
After his enlistment he was posted to A Company, 2nd Depot at Mitcham where he undertook his basic training. He was promoted to corporal on 16 February and then transferred to the 17th Reinforcements, 10th Battalion. The unit embarked for England on the HMAT A60 Aeneas on 11 April 1916.
On arrival at Plymouth Cpl HOLLIDAY and his fellow soldiers entrained to the 3rd Training Battalion at Perham Downs on the Salisbury Plains, Wiltshire, where they continued to be trained. Cpl HOLLIDAY then sought transfer to the 10th Battalion, which was in the frontline and on 5 August 1917, he arrived at their positions at Seninghem, France.
In early September 1917, the Battalion moved to the frontline near Ypres, Belgium and prepared for an attack on Passchendaele Ridge. The British strategy called for the capture of the heights prior to the winter months so that the Allies would have the high ground for a 1918 spring campaign. However, the offensive was carried out during the wettest weather on record for 70 years. The area of operations for the 10th Battalion was to be Nonne Boschen-Polygon Wood.
On the night of 19-20 September 1917, the Battalion moved up to the assembly point in front of Jargon Trench. The move was done in sleeting rain. Between Halfway House and Hooge Crater, an enemy gas shell burst and movement was restricted by having to wear gas masks. For over five hours, until zero hour (0540 hours), the Battalion was subjected to heavy shelling which caused a number of casualties. However, Cpl HOLLIDAY was unscathed.
The advance commenced and at the first objective, Glencorse Wood, a strong enemy machine gun post manned by about 50 Germans with three machine guns was encountered. During the assault and capture of the emplacement, 40 of the enemy were killed. At the second objective, two enemy machine guns which had caused considerable casualties amongst the Battalion, were captured. During the second day the enemy heavily shelled the area between the second and third objectives, but the new Battalion front line remained intact. In the Polygon Wood operation the Battalion losses were: 18 killed, 151 wounded and 54 missing.
At 2400 hours on 30 September, the Battalion moved to the front line at Zonnebeke and relieved the 48th Battalion. An enemy barrage hit the advance elements of the 10th of which Cpl HOLLIDAY was one of the soldiers in the leading party. The shelling continued until first light and five men were killed and 24 wounded. Cpl HOLLIDAY was one of those killed from shrapnel when an enemy shell burst close to his party. The dead were buried in the field, but as often was the case, the grave markers were later lost or the graves destroyed by enemy barrages.
Cpl HOLLIDAY is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, Belgium along with 54,321 other Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave in the Ypres sector.
Service file of 5331 William HOLLIDAY downloaded from the National Archives of Australia (www.naa.gov.au ).
Australian War Memorial database (www.awm.gov.au ).
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, June 2009.