Born on the 19th of July 1890, the son of a veterinary surgeon John Holland M.R.C.V.S. and Catherine Peppard of Athy Co. Kildare. The young Holland was educated in Clongowes Wood College and in later life Liverpool University. Before the outbreak of war he travelled in Brazil, Argentina, (where he worked for the Carriage and Wagon Department of the Central Argentine Railway) Chile and Bolivia where he was engaged in ranching railway engineering and hunting.

[Image] On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the 2nd Life Guards in November 1914 undergoing his training in Cumbermere Barracks Windsor. After a short time with the Life Guards he was granted a commission with the 3rd Battalion of the Leinster Regiment. In March 1915 he was attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was then wounded in August and returned to England and Ireland to convalesce, but it wasn't long until he was back in France and back with the Leinster Regiment this time with the 7th Battalion serving as battalion bombing officer. In late August and early September 1916 the Leinster Regiment was engaged in the desperate fighting at Guillemont and it was here on the 3rd of September that Holland was to win the Victoria Cross.

The award for the Victoria Cross for the action at Guillemont on the 3rd of September 1916 was published on page 10394 of the London Gazette no. 29802 dated the 29th of October 1916 and read:

For most conspicuous bravery during a heavy engagement, when not content with bombing hostile dug-outs within the objective, he fearlessly led his bombers through our own artillery barrage and cleared a great part of the village in front. He started out with 26 bombers and finished up with only five, after capturing some fifty prisoners. By this very gallant action he undoubtedly broke the spirit of the enemy, and thus saved us many casualties when the battalion made a further advance.

The Bombers

4962 Sgt. Micheal Kelly awarded the D.C.M.

8533 L/Cpl. Arthur Kelly wounded and awarded the D.C.M.

5331 Cpl. Patrick Colgan awarded the M.M.

10553 L/Cpl. Edward Dowling awarded the M.M.

4818 L/Cpl. Daniel Synnott wounded and awarded the M.M.

3321 Pte. Timothy Coughlan awarded the M.M.

2129 Pte. Micheal Clarkin wounded and awarded the M.M.

3311 Pte. Bernard Moore wounded and awarded the M.M.

3398 L/Cpl. Germiah Gueran killed in the action

3490 Pte. Micheal Hogan killed in the action

3285 Pte. Joseph Elliott killed in the action

2954 Pte. William Morgan killed in the action

2178 Pte. John McComisky killed in the action

2914 Pte. Ernest McClelland wounded

2863 Pte. Patrick Clarke wounded

5179 Pte. Patrick Murphy wounded

5153 Pte. Richard Holohan wounded

10483 Pte. John O'Brien wounded the previous day

2894 Pte. Joseph Armstrong wounded

4417 Pte. John Dolan wounded

10334 Pte. Micheal McEvoy wounded

3505 Pte. Henry McGuire wounded the previous day

5080 Pte. Patrick Boylan wounded

3330 Pte. Henry McCabe wounded

3231 Pte. William Morton wounded

2854 Pte. John Ford recommended for a commission

Holland was also promoted to Captain, Mentioned in Dispatches and given the Hickie Parchment for his bravery. Soon after he won the Victoria Cross both Holland and his family received many letters congratulating him on his achievement.

Headquarters Irish Division

18th November 1916

My Dear Holland,

I meant to have written to you a long time ago and wrote for your address. This I have received today. I want to express to you on my own behalf and in the name of the Division which I have the great honour to command our pleasure and satisfaction at your gallant son's action at Guillemont, which has earned the highest reward that a soldier can earn. You are much to be envied and I have no doubt also a very proud father, but your honour and all his comrades not only in his regiment, but also in the Division share your pride in your son. I trust you maybe both spared for many years to enjoy the distinction he has won. You will have heard from him many details which I could not give you of the work of the battalion since they landed in this country. They have worthily carried out the motto of the old Irish Brigades "Everywhere and always faithful"

With very kind regards to your son, your very truly,

W.B. Hickie

Holland also received a letter from one of the men who served with him as a bomber during the war:


Just a line to congratulate you on your winning the highest award. I was glad to read it the Times. Hope you are progressing well and will soon be all right again. I remember your words on that memorable day, -" Boys a Victoria Cross is to be won" How about Guinness's £1,000 and a motorcar now, sir?

A. Lee

Bomb Section 7th Leins. Regt.

On the 15th of January 1917 Holland married Frances Grogan in the Cathedral in Queenstown (now Cobh) Co. Cork. She was the daughter of Joseph Grogan J.P. of the Manor House Queenstown.


John Vincent Holland and his wife Frances

After his wedding he was appointed Staff Instructor, number 16, Officer Cadet Battalion, Kinnel Park, Rhyl, Wales and he would be there until the end of the war. With the armistice Holland was discharged but decided to join the 9th Lancers of the Indian Army on the 27th of November 1919 and was appointed Major. Holland and his family were now living at 34, Elm Road, Seaforth, Merseyside, Liverpool, and he was transferred to Kenya for a period of Colonial Service from the Indian Army. On the 15th of September 1922 he decided to retire after many years with the army. Between the wars Holland did not seem to have permanent employment and he joined the civil service changing jobs many times.


Major Niall Vincent Holland's grave in India

On the outbreak of the Second World War Holland answered the call again but this time his two sons also joined the army Niall Vincent was a Major in the 4th Bn. 5th Mahratta Light Inf. He was awarded the M.C. but was killed on the 15th of June 1944 aged 25 and is buried in Imphal War Cemetery India. His other son Norman served as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery with the 4th Durham Survey Regiment in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy. John Vincent Holland himself joined the 9/10th D.C.O. Lancers (Hodson's Horse) but was invalided out in 1941 and took up a position with the Ministry of Food.

In 1956 Holland and his wife emigrated to Hobart Tasmania and this would be the place where he spend the rest of his life. His wife Francis died 4 years later in 1960 and was buried in Cornelian Bay, Cemetery, Hobart. While he was living in Tasmania he made two trips to London with the V.C. Association, his last in June 1970. Major John Vincent Holland V.C. lived to see his first Great-Grandchild Kirsten before dying on the 27th of Febuary 1975 in St. John's Park Hospital. He was buried after a requiem mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in same grave as his wife in Cornelian Bay Cemetery.

Extract from letter of Norman Holland regarding the funeral of his father.

The Commonwealth gave Dad a state funeral with full military honours - 200 marching troops, 6 Majors to carry his coffin and 4 young officers carried his medals. He was carried through the streets of Hobart on a gun carriage draped in the Southern Cross and accompanied by a scarlet clad military band and led by a motorcycle police escort. The Archbishop, Dr. Gilford Young, offered Requiem Mass in the Cathedral and spoke with great clarity and relevance. The Assistant Bishop Con-Celebrated (He is an Irishman from Derry and came to Australia on the same ship as myself). It was a beautiful day and all went with military precision. The last salute was fired and the last post sounded. Weapons were reversed and the coffin lowered beside that of my mother.


Holland's Grave in Cornelian Bay Cemetery Hobart

Holland during his service in two World Wars was awarded the Victoria Cross, 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, Defence Medal, War Medal, George V Jubilee Medal, Coronation Medal George VI, and the Coronation Medal Elizabeth II. He was also Mentioned in Dispatches and awarded the Hickie Parchment.
Holland, a very brave but modest man, always maintained to the day he died that,

"I would betray an unspoken trust and be unworthy of this cross did I not now and always bear witness to the fact that the proud honour I am fortunate enough to bear could never have been mine but for the fidelity and extraordinary gallantry of the men I commanded".


Copyright © Conor Dodd, June 2003.

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