Richard Holmes (military historian)

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Richard Holmes
Richard Holmes.png
Holmes around 2005
Edward Richard Holmes

(1946-03-29)29 March 1946
Aldridge, Staffordshire
Died30 April 2011(2011-04-30) (aged 65) [1]
Alma mater
Occupation(s)Professor of Military and Security Studies
Employer Cranfield University
Military career
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army (TA)
Years of service1964–2000
Rank Brigadier
Unit Queen's Regiment

Edward Richard Holmes, CBE, TD, JP, VR (29 March 1946 – 30 April 2011), [1] known as Richard Holmes, was a British military historian. He was co-director of Cranfield University's Security and Resilience Group from 1989 to 2009 and became Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield in 1995.


Early life and education

Holmes was educated at Forest School, Walthamstow; Emmanuel College, Cambridge; Northern Illinois University; and the University of Reading, where he was awarded a PhD in 1975. [2]

Military career

In 1964, he enlisted in the Territorial Army, the volunteer reserve of the British Army. [3] [4] Two years later he received a commission as a second lieutenant with the Territorial Army, and was promoted to lieutenant on 17 June 1968. [5] [6] He was promoted to acting captain in 1972, [7] substantive captain in 1973, [8] acting major in 1978 [9] and substantive major in 1980. [10] In 1979, he was awarded the Territorial Decoration. [11]

Holmes was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1986, [12] whereupon he transferred to and took command of the 2nd Battalion, The Wessex Regiment (Volunteers), [13] filling the appointment until 1988. In the 1988 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) (Military Division). [14] He was promoted to colonel on 29 January 1989. [15] In June 1991, he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Queen, holding the post until February 1997. [16] [17]

In January 1994, he was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Southampton University Officer Training Corps, [18] and that February he was appointed brigadier of the Territorial Army at Headquarters Land Command. [19]

In 1995, he became Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University. [20] From 1997 until his retirement in 2000, Holmes was Director General, Reserve Forces and Cadets, the Army's senior reservist. [21] In the 1998 New Year Honours, he was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) (Military Division). [22]

From September 1999 to 1 February 2007, he was Colonel of the Regiment of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (successor to The Queen's and Royal Hampshire Regiments). [23] On 19 September 2000, he was awarded the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal. [24]

Academic career

Between 1969 and 1985, Holmes was a lecturer at the Department of War Studies at the RMA Sandhurst, becoming Deputy Head of the department in 1984. [20]

In 1989 he was appointed as the co-director of Cranfield University's Security Studies Institute at the Royal Military College of Science, at Shrivenham. He became Professor of Military and Security Studies there in 1995, retiring from both positions, although retaining some part-time responsibilities in 2009. [2]

Holmes was also President of the British Commission for Military History, and the Battlefields Trust. [1] He was also a patron of the Guild of Battlefield Guides. [1] He received the Order of the Dannebrog and held honorary doctorates from the universities of Leicester and Kent. [25]

Publications and television work

Holmes wrote more than twenty published books, including Firing Line and Redcoat, and was also Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford University Press' Companion to Military History. His television works included writing and presenting documentary series on the American Revolution, such as Rebels and Redcoats in 2003 and Battlefields, a series concentrating on the bloody battles of the Second World War. [26] [27] His War Walks television series has been regularly repeated on British terrestrial and digital television channels, including BBC Two and UKTV History. One of his documentary series was Wellington: The Iron Duke, [28] in which he chronicled the Duke of Wellington's life, travelling to India, to Waterloo and numerous other locations.

He used a similar format in his series, In the Footsteps of Churchill, a documentary on Winston Churchill. In this, he travelled across the world, including South Africa, Sudan, Egypt and various locations in the United Kingdom and Europe. He also wrote a book to accompany the series. [3]

In 2003 he presented Britain's Finest Castles , part of an eight-part documentary series for Channel 5, produced by Sabine Pusch and directed by Peter Sommer.

Personal life

Holmes married Katharine Saxton in 1975, with whom he had two daughters. [29]


Holmes died on 30 April 2011, aged 65, from the effects of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. [30] [1]


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Prof Richard Holmes, acclaimed military historian, dies". BBC News. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  2. 1 2 "HOLMES, Prof. (Edward) Richard" . Who's Who . Vol. 2019 (online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)(subscription required)
  3. 1 2 "Obituary: Professor Richard Holmes". The Daily Telegraph. UK. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  4. Reisz, Matthew (12 May 2011). "Obituary: Richard Holmes, 1946–2011". Times Higher Education . Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  5. "No. 44971". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 November 1969. p. 11383.
  6. "No. 45245". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 December 1970. p. 13398.
  7. "No. 45636". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 March 1972. p. 4018.
  8. "No. 46046". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 August 1973. p. 9392.
  9. "No. 47545". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 May 1978. p. 6548.
  10. "No. 48229". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 June 1980. p. 8996.
  11. "No. 47824". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 April 1979. p. 5392.
  12. "No. 50527". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 May 1986. p. 7097.
  13. "No. 49467". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 September 1983. p. 11712.
  14. "No. 51365". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1988. p. 5.
  15. "No. 51713". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 April 1989. p. 4917.
  16. "No. 52555". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 1991. p. 8947.
  17. "No. 54718". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 March 1997. p. 3877.
  18. "No. 53601". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 February 1994. p. 3179.
  19. "No. 53737". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 July 1994. p. 10279.
  20. 1 2 "Historian and Broadcaster to be Honoured by University". University of Leicester. 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
  21. "No. 56217". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 May 2001. p. 6335.
  22. "No. 54993". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1997. pp. 5–6.
  23. "No. 58238". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 February 2007. p. 1639.
  24. "No. 55974". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 September 2000. pp. 10418–10419.
  25. "Professor Richard Holmes". Cranfield University. 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2009.[ permanent dead link ]
  26. Rebels and Redcoats – Public Broadcasting Service summary
  27. Rebels and Redcoats at IMDb
  28. "Wellington: The Iron Duke: Richard Holmes: Books". Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  29. "Professor Richard Holmes: Military historian whose books and". The Independent. 4 May 2011.
  30. "Tributes to war historian Holmes" via