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Plaque honours Islington men who died at Somme

Descendants of Thomas John Holding travelled from Aberdeen to pull the cord on the plaque.

28 November, 2016 — By Joe Cooper

Patricia Ludlow, Ann Larkham and John Charles Holding, relatives of Thomas Holding, below, at the plaque

RELATIVES of men from Islington and Finsbury who died at the Somme have gathered to mark 100 years since the World War I battle.

A new plaque to the almost 800 soldiers was unveiled at the war memorial at Royal Northern Gardens, in Holloway, on Friday at a service attended by veterans, dignitaries and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Descendants of Thomas John Holding, who died just four days before the end of the battle, travelled from Aberdeen to pull the cord on the plaque.

Rifleman Thomas J Holding

Rifleman Thomas John Holding

Thomas, a van boy in Islington, died aged just 20 after joining the 13th Service Battalion of the Rifle Brigade.

Great niece Ann Larkham only became aware of Thomas a few years ago when researching her family tree. She travelled to Holloway with her mother, Patricia Ludlow.

“It was all a bit overwhelming,” Ms Larkham said. “It was a really fitting tribute and it was nice to see people like Jeremy Corbyn, the police and veterans there. It shows the respect people still have.”

Also present was their cousin, John Charles Holding, Thomas’s nephew.

The two sides of the family had never met until last year, a meeting which came about as a result of Ms Larkham’s research.

Following the service, relatives of Hugh “Victor” Hember gave a presentation at Manor Gardens on his collection of letters and photographs from the war.

Victor, who lived in Tufnell Park, was one of nearly 20,000 British soldiers killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

In one of his early letters Victor tells the story of the 1914 Christmas Eve truce when British and German soldiers sang carols before exchanging gifts.

He described tough conditions, with mice biting through the clothing men were standing up in, but there were humorous stories too, such as tales of meeting French girls in the towns.

In a poignant letter to his friends at Carleton Tennis Club, he wrote: “One wonders that men can be such utter fools as to know of no other way of settling their disputes except by causing such destruction to life and property as can never be replaced.”

The collection of photographs, letters and artefacts is kept at Islington Museum. The event was organised by Islington Veterans Association and Islington Council.

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