Remembrance Day

Holland brothers made ultimate sacrifice in World War 1

By Liz Mellino

The photos of two young brothers sit next to each other on the Calendar and Roll of Honour of Fallen Heroes published in The News in 1917.

The faces of Charles Spurgeon Holland, 23, and George Whitefield Holland, 21, are pictured among dozens of other district soldiers who lost their lives during World War I.

The brothers from Shepparton enlisted for the war together in 1915 and both paid the ultimate price a year later when they were killed in action in France within weeks of each other.

Sisters Barbara Wright and Margaret Thompson cherish the little they know about their great-uncles Charles and George, and have spent many years collecting pieces of history about their lives.

Barbara Wright and Margaret Thompson with a photo of their grandmother Lizzie Holland. Lizzie’s three brothers — Charles, George and Jack — served in WWI. Picture: Sam Coles.

‘‘The boys were encouraged to go to war and be patriotic, everyone else was enlisting and I suppose that is why they did too,’’ Ms Wright said.

‘‘They didn’t know what they were getting themselves into, I think they went not even thinking they might get killed.’’

Ms Wright and Ms Thompson have gathered an extensive collection of information about their great-uncles, with a number of photos, letters, service records, enlistment records and war documents sharing the stories of the young men.

Barbara and Margaret have gathered an extensive collection of letters and photos from their great-uncles.

The Holland boys had another brother, Jack Wesley, 25, who also enlisted to serve with them.

The three brothers left Australia aboard the same ship in November of 1915, however Jack was the only one to return.

Despite being injured, he returned home to Australia in 1919.

‘‘It is very sad to think about, it must have been terrible for the family to lose two of their boys,’’ Ms Thompson said.

In the sisters’ collection are dozens of letters the brothers sent home while they were away, detailing their feelings but never going into specific events of the war.

Ms Wright recalled one letter sent from England in 1918 which revealed Jack’s desire to return home and help support his family.

‘‘Jack was injured and he wasn’t very happy because he either wanted to be back in the war or be able to come back to Australia and help his parents,’’ she said.

‘‘He talks about being quite unhappy in the letters because one day he was told he was going to be sent home very shortly and then the next day they changed their mind and he was sent to France.

‘‘He was very upset about that ... it is terrible to think three boys out of the one family went.’’

Ms Wright and Ms Thompson agree it is devastating to think about what their great-uncles and thousands of others endured.

Charles Holland.

They deeply cherish the pieces of history they have been able to collect about the Holland brothers.

‘‘Some people don’t know about their ancestors but we have always known about them,’’ Ms Thompson said.

‘‘We’re very interested in history and over the years we have collected as much information as we could.’’

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