Whenever I am reading through old World War One newspapers, I always read the “Appealing for information adverts” with such sadness and never more so the one I read for Rfn Stanley Holyfield of The London Rifle Brigade. His family from South Wanstead placed this appeal in The Graphic newspaper on the 26th July 1916 as Stanley was last seen on the 1st July 1916. On the 1st July the 5th London Regiment took part in a diversionary attack on Gommecourt where they suffered very heavy casualties. When I started researching him, I didn’t really hold out much hope of a happy outcome.
Stanley Frank Montague Holyfield was born on the 7th Jul 1897 in Leyton, Essex. He was the eldest son of Frank Arthur and Alice Mary Holyfield and grew up at the address at Wanstead Park Avenue with his younger sister and brother.
Stanley must have lied about his age when he enlisted in The 5th London Regiment on the 31st May 1915 while still only 17. He went with The British Expeditionary to France on the 17th Jan 1916 and was still only 18 when the battalion attacked Gommecourt on the 1st July. The London Rifle Brigade were driven out of enemy trenches with great loss. Lt Col A S Bates gave the strength of his battalion at the time of assembly for action as 23 officers and 803 other ranks. At 5pm he would count just 89 unwounded men. Total casualties given in regimental histories were 588. There didn’t seem much hope for Stanley but incredibly he had survived. His time in service overseas is given as 17th Jan 1916 to 1st July 1916 but he was discharged as sick on the 27th May 1919. He was possibly taken prisoner and survived the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp, however being discharged as sick didn’t necessarily mean he survived as what ever experiences he had endured may have taken a terrible toll on him.
I was delighted to find in the records that Stanley married Joan Puckle in July 1940 at the age of 43. The couple lived in Chelmsford Essex and Stanley died in August 1985 at the grand old age of 88. It has been a really uplifting research project and Stanley must have been a strong determined young man to survive so much.