CWG: Private William Holden

Private William Holden

Sometimes research into the names of the fallen runs into obstacles. There are graves I have researched that have brought up very little information, either because the soldier concerned is too young to have a lot of documentation about them, or because information on them has subsequently been lost.

On other occasions, it is the sheer wealth of documentation that proves to be the stumbling block. Such is the case with William Frederick Holden, buried in the Broadwater Cemetery in Worthing, West Sussex.

The grave itself gives some information: he was a Private in the Royal Sussex Regiment, with a service number of 8298970, and died on 16th February 1921, at the age of 26. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission archives give some further information: his father was Frederick Charles Holden, and his stepmother was Elena.

The Find A Grave website adds a little further information – he was born in Sidlesham, near Chichester in West Sussex. The site suggests, however, that he was born in 1897, which would suggest he was 23 or 24 when he died.

Researching on Ancestry throws up a wealth of other information, which begins to make it more of a challenge to identify the correct details. Both William and Frederick were common names in the late Victorian era, and Holden was a familiar Sussex name, and had many spelling variations.

Searching for William’s service number on sites like Fold3 does not provide any results, so that does not provide an opportunity to narrow down the information. Nor is there any record of his passing or burial in contemporary newspapers.

To add to the confusion, when I dug a little deeper, it seems that William’s birth name was, in fact, Frederick William Holden, and he was known by his middle name to avoid confusion with his father. His mother was Fanny Warrington (née Walker), and he seems to have had one sister, Annie. Fanny seems to have passed away in 1903, and Frederick Sr went on to marry Louisa.

So, like a patchwork, vague details of William’s life are pieced together. But huge gaps still remain. Private Holden was assigned to the 4th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, which fought at Gallipoli and served in Egypt and France before the war was done. However, there is no evidence that William fought abroad.

Sadly, William’s passing is lost to time as well. We know when he died, but there is nothing to confirm a cause of death. Given when it was, it seems likely to have been as a result of one of the invasive lung conditions that ravaged Europe after the First World War. But he could just as easily have succumbed to the ongoing effects of wounds received during fighting. Given the lack of supporting documentation, we are unlikely ever to know.

William Frederick Holden lies at rest in Worthing’s Broadwater Cemetery.


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