The Naval Brigade in Egypt and the Soudan
H.W.L. Holman
H.W.L. Holman was born in HM Dockyard Chatham on 29 Nov 1861. He was the son of John Holman, a Royal Naval Surgeon.  He
passed his Officer’s entrance exam & entered the RMLI Portsmouth Division as a Lieut on 1 Feb ’81.
His first assessment on 30 Jun ’81 indicated that he was a very promising officer with excellent judgement & good physical qualities
deserving of advancement. He is also noted as being fluent in German & slightly in French. He passed the exam in Military Instruction in
Dec ’82 & passed for increased pay in May ’83. But he failed his exam for promotion to Captain in July ’83.

His active service commenced when he was appointed to the RM battalion for service in Egypt & the Soudan in Feb ’84.
Holman was subsequently appointed Assistant Adjutant of the RM Batt’n. The RM Batt’n left UK on 10 Feb ’84 & arrived at the port
city of Suakin, on the Red Sea coast, on 24 Feb.   In March the RM Batt’n  took part in the defence of Suakin and the subsequent
operations against Osman Digma & his followers. It was important that the port cities of Suakin & Trinkitat be kept open & in allied
hands for the coming inland campaign. The members of the RM brigade thus qualified for the undated 1884 Egypt/Soudan medal, or if
they already were in possession of the 1882 dated medal, the Suakin 1884 clasp.

In Mar 1885 the Batt’ in Suakin formed up & commenced the march inland to Hasheen. On 20 Mar they participated with the Berkshire
Reg’t in the attack on Mount Dihlibat which was taken & occupied.  After this the Batt’n returned to Suakin.  Early in the morning of  
22 March a large force of approx. 5,000 soldiers together with a small Naval brigade under Gen’l John Macneill marched out from Suakin
with the intention of forming a zareba in the desert to use as an intermediate depot for supplies and water needed for the advance on
Tamaai. The march was difficult going due to the sand & intense heat, the force halting at noon near the village of Tofrek and formed
three squares in echelon, the RM batt’n being in the southernmost square.  The Berkshires occupied the northernmost square & the
inner square was taken up with stores camels & equipment. As the squares were being assembled the marine detachment began
organizing lunch in their square. Shortly afterwards the arabs attacked, going after the camels causing them to stamped thru the
Marines square.  The Marines square reformed & the battle continued for about 30 mins with severe close quarter hand to hand
fighting. The marines lost 7 men killed & 17 wounded. About 700 of the camels were killed, the natives having around 1100 casualties.
This engagement was to be known as the battle of Tofrek or MacNeil’s zareba.

On the 24th the Marines left the zareba to meet a convoy of supplies coming out from Suakin.  On the return journey to the zareba
they were attacked by natives causing 6 RM casualties.
On 3 Apl the force left for Tamaai, fighting sporadic native action during the march, & occupying Tamaai later that day.  Holman saw
service at all of the Suakin ‘85/Tofrek related actions.

The Leans’s Navy List entry for Holman’s active service reads:
“served with the RM Batt’n defending Suakin,  & was engaged in the operations  in the eastern Soudan 1884-85. Present at the
actions at Hasheen, 20 Mar 1885; attack on Sir John McNeil’s zareba, Tulufik,
22 March;  the attack on the square of Guards &  Marines, 24 March, and the taking & burning of Tamaai, 3 April (Medal, Suakin 1885,
ToFrek clasps, Khedives star)”

He left the Soudan for the China station on 29 Apl ’85, arriving at Port Hamilton in July on Observatory Island in what is today Korea.
The reason this island was occupied was due to its important strategic position in the Korean Straights close to Japan & close
proximity to the Russian Pacific fleet. It was also planned to be a coaling station for RN ships in eastern waters.  The RM detachment,
of which Holman was Adjutant, pitched tents & occupied the uninhabited island from 30 July.  By the end of the year wooden huts had
been erected as living barracks for the officers & men. Holman was to remain with the detachment on the island until Feb ’87 when the
garrison vacated the island due to a political settlement being reached by the UK, China, Japan & Russia.  Holman left for the UK on 14
Apl ’87, his overseas service completed for the rest of his career. During his time on Port Hamilton he was assessed as a “very good
Company Officer.”
LIEUT COL.  Herbert William Liddell HOLMAN,  RMLI

He was posted to the Portsmouth Division & took some advancement courses, qualifying in Musketry at Hythe, attaining both
basic & extra certificates on 10 Oct ’87, & Military Equitation on 30 Nov ’87.  In Jan ’88 he passed two parts of his Captain’s
qualification exams. Posted to the RM Depot at Walmer on 25 Oct ’88, he was assessed by General Barnes as a “very good
Company officer with ability in both German & French.” He remained at Walmer depot until being posted to Malta on 5 July ’89.
He arrived on HMS Hibernia (base ship at Malta) two weeks later & was appointed Instructor of Musketry at the rifle range inland.
Whilst in Malta Holman was promoted to Captain, effective 21 Apl ’90.

He remained in this appointment until 25 Aug ’90 when he was posted back to the Portsmouth Division.  
Whilst at Portsmouth he was assessed as a: “very good instructor”, & noted  with: “a very good knowledge of Italian.”  His
assessor did note however that he was: “inclined to dispute lawful commands”.

He was posted  to RM Depot at Walmer again on 14 Aug ’91, where he passed two more examinations in Jan ’92 for promotion to
Captain. He qualified as an Interpreter in French in Apl ’92 & also took courses in Field Fortifications & Military Topography where
he was graded as: “Distinguished in Field Fortifications” & received the: “Special Certificate for Military Topography” in July ’92.
He also passed in German before the Civil Service Commissioners in Oct ’92.

On 4 Dec he was posted to the Chatham Division for three wks.  On 24 Dec he returned to Walmer where he was noted to be
proficient in French, German, & Italian, and: “zealous, studious, an able officer, specially recommended for advancement.” Holman
remained at Walmer until 12 Jan ’93.

He was then posted back to Portsmouth for appointment to HMS Collingwood in command of the RM detachment on board.
Collingwood was then part of the Mediterranean fleet.  He arrived on Collingwood on 28 Jan ’93.  At that time the Royal Naval
presence in the Mediterranean was extremely important & was a prime posting for an officer. Collingwood was an ironclad
battleship of Dec’82 & was similar to the many other ironclads that made up the fleet.  Holman was to remain on Collingwood until
7 Aug ’94.
However his time on Collingwood was not without incident & memorable indeed as he was on board her that fateful Jun 22, ’93
when he witnessed the fatal collision of HMS Victoria with HMS Camperdown that resulted in the sinking & massive loss of life on
HMS Victoria. Collingwood was in the line of battleships making up the fleet that day & was in a position to view the collision &
rescue some of the survivors.  Actually one of the most famous photos of Victoria just about to go under was taken by the Fleet
Surgeon of HMS Collingwood.  This was to be Holman’s only & last sea appointment of his RM career.  His assessment on leaving
Collingwood was :  “ a very reserved officer, but careful in the strict performance of his duty.” & he was noted as being an
interpreter in German, French & Italian (Navy list).
Prior to leaving Collingwood Holman had contracted enteric fever & spent part of July in Malta RN Hospital. He was surveyed at
Malta hospital on 28 July, & was subsequently invalided to Uk, joining Portsmouth Division on 8 Aug ’94.  He subsequently
qualified at competitive examination for admission to the Staff College in Sep ’94. He attended the staff College & upon completion
of the course, on 31 Jan ’95 was appointed to The Naval Intelligence Dept {NID} at the Admiralty buildings London. His ability
with languages may have been a consideration in this appointment.  Whilst at NID Holman was promoted to Major effective 23
May ’99.  He remained in NID until his appointment was extended for another two years being effective from 31 Jan 1900.
On 1 Apl ’02 Holman was returned to the Chatham Division.

On 16 Apl ‘02 Holman was appointed to be Marine A.D.C. to Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, Governor of New South Wales, Australia.
He was to hold this appointment until 11 July ’03. He went on leave for a month until departing NSW on 10 Aug, arrived back in
the Uk on 5 Oct, & being appointed to the Plymouth Division effective 18 Nov. He was then appointed to the Portsmouth Division
as Paymaster from 13 Dec.
He was to remain in this appointment for the remainder of his career.

During his time as Paymaster he was assessed as : “very conscientious & careful”- (from ’04-’07, Col. Evans)

“Painstaking, hardworking, reliable, conscientious, devoid of tact. Carries out  duties to my satisfaction”
(’08 .Col Gatliff)

“Hardworking, zealous, very conscientious & careful, accurate & well informed , not good tempered, somewhat excitable, wanting
in tact. ( ’09. Col Gatliff)

“Knowledge  of French & German. Hardworking  & reliable, clear headed businessman.  Manner  rather uncertain.  Tactless at  
times. (’10. Col Cotter).

Throughout his career Holman was always assessed as Temperate, with Conduct Professional Knowledge & Ability always
assessed as VG or VGI.
Above:  Officers of the Royal
Marine Battalion, Suez
Hospital camp, 1884-85.

Lieut Holman is in the seated
row of officers wearing the
white pith helmets, on the
right end, immediately behind
the officer seated on the
ground in the black tunic.

Left: RMLI Barracks at Port
Hamilton, Korea
Holman married Alice Milne on 1 Jun ’07 & was subsequently promoted to Hon Lieut Col on 13 Dec 1908.

However near the close of his career it appears as if he had had enough & was perhaps not a very well man, he may have had
some health problems that affected his temperament, judgement & decisions.
On 6 Jan 1911 Holman was placed on the retired List due to medical unfitness.  As he would have been 50 yrs of age in Nov of
1911 he was close to the mandatory retirement age of 50.
Holman lived in Lee-On-Solent & died there on 1 May 1930. He was in his 89th year.  
Cause of death is unknown.
Above : Admiral Rawson with family and staff arriving in New South Wales 1902. Admiral Rawson is on the right
wearing top hat & to his right is Major Holman, ADC to Adm Rawson, also wearing top hat.

The two ladies are Lady Rawson & their daughter.
Left: HMS Victoria about to go under

This famous photo was taken by the
Surgeon of HMS Collingwood,
Holman’s ship that day