yeovil at War
Cecil Ernest Sheppard Holwill
Died from his wounds in Mesopotamia
Cecil Ernest Sheppard Holwill was born in Yeovil in 1896, the son of solicitor's accountant Hubert Henry Holwill (1863-1947) and his second wife, Minnie Florence née Sheppard (1871-1957). He was baptised at St John's church on 17 April 1896. Hubert and Minnie were to have four children; Cecil, Ronald Eustace Henry (b1904), Joan Nellie (1909-1994) and Jack Dennis (1915-2003). In the 1901 census Hubert and Minnie were listed at Landslip Villas, Hendford - next door to Hendford House (today's Manor Hotel). Living with them were the four children from Hubert's first marriage - Gertrude (b1888), Leslie (b1889), Winifred (b1890) and Constance Louise (b1893) - as well as their own child, Cecil.
By 1910 the family had moved to Teddington, Surrey, where Hubert had a complete change of career and became a self-employed confectioner, tobacconist and newsagent. Constance and Cecil were still living at home, as were two new additions to the family; Ronald Eustace Henry (b1904) and Joan Nellie (b1910).
Cecil enlisted at Hounslow, Middlesex, although It is not clear when. He initially enlisted as a Private in the the Buffs (East Kent) Regiment with the Service Number 3581 but was later transferred to the 2nd (Garrison) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers with the Service Number 311080. This battalion was formed in October 1915 at Newcastle and went to India in February 1916.
Cecil's whereabouts are somewhat uncertain since the 2nd (Garrison) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers joined the Sialkot Brigade, 2nd (Indian) Division and between March 1916 and March 1917 in the 6th Poona divisional area. From March 1917 until October 1917 the battalion remained with the Division but at Ahmednagar. Then from October 1917 to May 1918 it was transferred to the Ahmednagar Brigade.
However, some men of the 2nd (Garrison) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, including Cecil Holwill, served in Mesopotamia from March 1917 until 1919. Whether this was the whole battalion, or elements of it, is not clear but the Battalion lost 179 men during the First World War and the majority died from sickness in Mesopotamia. It seems certain that all or part of the 2nd (Garrison) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers arrived in Basra in late February or early March 1917. The deaths in Mesopotamia appeared to be mostly from sickness. The Garrison Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers appears to have remained in Mesopotamia until the winter of 1918.
Certainly Cecil was at Kut al Amara where the Allies were in constant conflict with the Turkish army. Cecil was seriously wounded while at Kut and it appears that he was sent back to England to recuperate. However he died on 27 May 1918 and is buried in Teddington cemetery. His name is not recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.
British troops on the banks of the River Tigris during the siege of Kut, early 1916.
British soldiers at Kut al-Amara, 1916.
A British supply depot at Kut al-Amara, 1916.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Cecil Holwill.
Cecil Holwill's grave in Teddington Cemetery.