Philip Vaughan HOLBERTON (1879–1918)

Philip Vaughan Holberton was born in Twickenham, Middlesex in 1879, the son of Edmund Robert Holberton (born in Hampton, Middlesex in 1842/3) and Emily Gertrude Bros (born in St James’s, London in 1847). His parents were married at St James's Church, Westminster on 12 October 1872 and had eight children:

  • Robert Francis Holberton (born at Udney Cottage, Teddington, Middlesex in 1873 and baptised at Norbiton on 4 October)
  • Dorothea Holberton (born in Teddington, Middlesex in 1875/6)
  • Richard Bartle Holberton (born in Twickenham, Middlesex on 24 August 1876 nd baptised at Teddington on 21 September)
  • Mary Holberton (born in Twickenham, Middlesex 1877/8); possibly really named Véra Vaughan Holberton?
  • Philip Vaughan Holberton (born in Twickenham, Middlesex on 24 May 1879 and baptised at Teddington on 12 June)
  • Janet Holberton (born in Teddington, Middlesex pm 2 May 1881 and baptised there on 28 May)
  • Thomas Edmund Holberton (born in Teddington, Middlesex on 19 December 1882 and baptised there on 16 January 1883)
  • Fanny Hughes Holberton (born in Teddington, Middlesex on 22 Octber 1884 and baptised there on 20 November).

Philip’s father was a merchant with the East India Company. The family lived in Teddington until 1876 and then in Twickenham, but were back in Teddington by the time of the 1881 census, when they were living at Church House in the High Street with their five eldest children, including Philip (1). They had four servants (a nurse and an under-nurse, a cook, and a housemaid).

Philip’s father died at the age of 43 near the beginning of 1886. By 1891 Philip’s widowed mother had moved with her eight children to the Kingsland area of Shrewsbury, but on census night only three of her children were actually in the family home (looked after by a nurse, cook, and housemaid). Mrs Holberton and four of her other children, including Philip (11), were lodging with the family of a farmer called John Lewis in Minton Villa, All Stretton, Shropshire, while her eighth child, Robert (17), was boarding at Rossall School in Fleetwood.

In 1893 Philip entered Shrewsbury School as a day boy, where the Shrewsbury School Roll of Service records that he played in the Football XI and would have served in the school crew had he not been prevented by examinations. He was also assigned the title of “Killing Hound” (decided by the number of “kills” or first-place finished a boy had attained during the school’s unique version of the “Hare and Hounds” game).

Philip left school in 1898 and went up to Sandhurst, where he won the Sword of Honour (the last one ever presented by Queen Victoria). He joined his regiment, the 2nd Manchesters, in South Africa, and served as a Second Lieutenant in the Boer War. At the time of the 1901 census, when he was 21, he was home on leave in Kingsland with his widowed mother and four of his siblings, plus two servants (a cook and a housemaid). Later that year, on 12 November, he was wounded slightly at Schalkie Farm near Bethlehem in the Orange Free State. He continued to fight in South Africa in 1902, and received the King’s Medal with two clasps and the Queen’s with five.

In 1907 Holberton was appointed Adjutant of the West African Regiment.

On 2 June 1908 at St James's Church, Piccadilly, Philip Vaughan Holberton married Dorothea Walcot of Ruabon, Denbighshire (born in Duddleston, Shropshire in 1876/7). They had three children:

  • Elizabeth Vaughan Holberton (born in Ruabon, near Wrexham, Denbighshire in 1910, registered fourth quarter)
  • John Walcot Holberton (born in the Macclesfield district of Cheshire in 1913, registered third quarter)
  • Diana Holberton (born in the Bucklow district of Cheshire in 1914, registered fourth quarter).

In 1911 Holberton was appointed Adjutant of the 6th (T.F.) Battalion of the Manchester Regiments, and was probably serving abroad at the time of the census that year; but his wife can be found living at Twining Villa in Ruabon with her unmarried uncle, R. H. Walcot and her first child Elizabeth, aged five months.

By 1911 Holberton’s mother was living in Oxfordshire at Park House, Essex Road, Thame with two of her daughters: Fanny Hughes Holberton (26) and Mrs Janet Marshall (29), the latter of whom had a three-month-old daughter.

From 1914 Mrs Holberton was living at the Glebe House in Sunningwell: this must be Philip Vaughan Holberton’s mother, but it seems likely that his wife came to live with her while he was at war, as their third child Diana was baptised at Sunningwell Church on 5 December 1914, with Holberton described in the register as a Captain of the 2nd Manchester Regiment.

Poppy When the First World War broke out Philip Vaughan Holberton was still serving as adjutant to the 6th Manchester Regiment (T.F.), and was sent with his battalion to Gallipoli, and fought throughout that campaign, receiving his brevet majority in 1915. He was then G.S.O. and Brigade Major in Egypt in 1916.

In October 1916 Holberton was given command of a Lancashire Fusiliers Battalion and went to France, receiving his brevet lieutenant-colonelcy and the Order of the White Eagle (Serbia) in 1917. He was mentioned four times in despatches.

Holberton's grave

Holberton was on the waiting list for a brigade when was killed in action at the age of 38 at Achiet-le-Grand in France on 26 March 1918.

He is buried at the Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension (Grave IV. F. 8).

Right: Photograph of Philip Vaughan Holberton’s grave in France, kindly supplied by British War Graves. The text reads:

[Emblem of the
Manchester Regiment]

26TH MARCH 1918  AGE 38

1914 TO 1918

This is one of the 40% of war graves that bears a personal message at the end (for which the family had to pay 3½d per letter).

As well as being remembered in St Leonard’s Church at Sunningwell where his parents lived, he is also on the Baschurch, Shropshire war memorial where his wife was now living and on the Shrewsbury School war memorial board.

The following death noticed appeared in The Times on 6 April 1918:

HOLBERTON.—Killed in action, on the 26th March, Brevet Lieut.-Colonel P. V. Holberton, Manchester Regiment, attached Lancs Fusiliers, the dearly-loved husband of Dorothea Holberton, aged 38. “Duty.”

Philip’s brothers Robert Francis Holberton and Thomas Edmund Holberton also fought in the First World War: the former was awarded the M.C., and the latter the M.C. and Bar. Thomas must be the man wrongly recorded as “Holberton, J.” on the “Those who Served” list in Sunningwell village hall; but Robert is not listed, probably because he had emigrated to Canada by 1911.

Administration (with will) was granted to Philip Vaughan Holberton’s widow Dorothea on 16 November 1918: his effects came to £131 1s. She was then back in her home county of Shropshire, living at The Firs in Baschurch.

Biography of Philip Vaughan Holberton by the Museum of the Manchester Regiment

Small memorial


Philip Vaughan Holberton’s widow
  • Dorothea Holberton (Mrs Philip Vaughan Holberton) remained in Shropshire, and was living at The Higher Grange in Ellesmere in the early 1920s. She died in 1950 in the Wrexham district.
His mother
  • Emily Gertrude Holberton (Mrs Edmund Robert Holberton) was evidently staying in Middlesex at The Lawn, Teddington just after the war, but she was back in Sunningwell in 1923. By 1925 she was living at 86 Lonsdale Road, Oxford. She died at that address on 9 February 1930 at the age of 83. Her effects came to £3,670 7s. 9d.
His children
  • Elizabeth Vaughan Holberton (born 1910) did not marry until 1961, when she was aged 50. Her husband was Melvill Seymour Brodrick (born 1906).
  • John Walcot Holberton (born 1913) attended Shrewsbury School, and on 2 September 1939 he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. He is probably the John W. Holberton who married Kathleen R. Cartwright in the second quarter of 1947 in the Basford registration district. Their daughter, Anna M. Holberton, was registered in the S.E. Surrey district in the first quarter of 1949.
  • The Diana Holberton who married John Maclean in the Chelsea district in the fourth quarter of 1938 is probably Philip’s daughter.
His siblings
  • Robert Francis Holberton (born 1873) went with his wife Mabel and first two sons to be a fruit farmer in Virginia, USA in about 1910. Their three sons were:
    • Thomas H. Holberton (born in England c.1907).
    • Robert Maynard Holberton (born in England c.1909). He moved from Virginia to New York and married Charlotte Metcalf Stone in October 1938.
      Their son, Philip Vaughan Holberton, who became a business executive, married Gale Russell on 16 May 1970 and they had two children, Matthew Russell Holberton and Alexandra Holberton; he then married Anne Meigs Blodget in 1983 and had they had one son, Philip Vaughan Holberton junior.
    • John Vaughan Holberton (born in the USA c.1911). He married Frances Snyder (known as Betty), and they had two daughters, Priscilla Holberton and Pamela Holberton.
  • Richard Bartle Holberton (born 1876) fought in the Boer War. By 1917 he had emigrated to the USA and was a fruit grower in Virginia at Crozet in Albemarle County. Later he moved to a small farm near Columbia in Fluvanna County where he stayed for the rest of his life. He and his wife Mary Alice Holberton had sons and a daughter Margaret.
  • Janet Holberton (born 1881) emigrated to the USA, and in 1906 at the National Cathedral in Washington DC she married Herbert Marshall. They had two daughters: Helen Janet Marshall (born 1907) and Mary Ethel Marshall (born 1910). Helen married Harry Lewis Baptist, Jr in 1934 and they had three children.
  • Thomas Edward Holberton (born 1882) received his BA from Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1904 and was Assistant Master at Holmwood, Formby from 1904 to 1908 and at Elstree from 1908 to 1911. He emigrated to Canada on 16 June 1911.


See also