Richard Holmes (military historian)

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Richard Holmes
Born Edward Richard Holmes
(1946-03-29)29 March 1946
Aldridge, Staffordshire
Died 30 April 2011(2011-04-30) (aged 65)[1]
Nationality British
Alma mater
Occupation Professor of Military and Security Studies
Employer Cranfield University
Military career
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army (TA)
Years of service 1964–2000
Rank Brigadier
Unit Queen's Regiment
Awards Commander of the Order of the British Empire Efficiency Decoration Volunteer Reserves Service Medal

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

Background and career

Holmes was educated at Forest School in Snaresbrook, northeast London, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, as well as Northern Illinois University and the University of Reading. In 1964, he enlisted in the Territorial Army, the part-time volunteer reserve of the Army.[2][3] Two years later he gained his commission,[4][5] eventually rising to the rank of brigadier. He spent most of his Territorial Army career with the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, The Queen's Regiment, a NATO-centred infantry battalion.

Between 1969 and 1985, he was a lecturer at the Department of War Studies at the RMA Sandhurst, becoming deputy head of the department in 1984.[6] He was promoted acting captain in 1972,[7] substantive captain in 1973,[8] acting major in 1978,[9] awarded the Efficiency Decoration (TD) in 1979,[10] promoted to substantive major in 1980.[11] In 1983, he transferred to and took command of the 2nd Battalion, The Wessex Regiment.[12] He was promoted to lieutenant-colonel when he chose to give up full-time service in 1986.[13] 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 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 in that February, he was appointed brigadier TA at Headquarters Land Command.[19] In 1995, he became Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield.[6]

From 1997 until his retirement in 2000, Holmes was Director General, Reserve Forces and Cadets, as well as having the distinguished honour of being Britain's senior serving reservist.[20] In the 1998 New Year Honours, he was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) (Military Division).[21] 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).[22] On 19 September 2000, he was awarded the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal.[23]


In 1989, he became co-director of Cranfield University's Security Studies Institute at the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham. He became Professor of Military and Security Studies there in 1995, retiring from both positions—although retaining some part-time responsibilities, in 2009.[24]

Public service

Holmes was also president of the British Commission for Military History and the Battlefields Trust,[1] patron of the Guild of Battlefield Guides,[1] chairman of Project Hougoumont, member of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Armouries, Patron of "Soldier On!" and a vice president of the UK National Defence Association. He received the Order of the Dannebrog and held honorary doctorates from the universities of Leicester and Kent.[25] Holmes lived in Hampshire with his wife and two daughters. In his spare time he sat as a Justice of the Peace for North-East Hampshire.

Publications and television work

Holmes wrote more than a dozen 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 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 most noted 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. In the BBC poll to find the 100 Greatest Britons in 2002, he presented the programme on Oliver Cromwell.

He used a similar format in his series, In the Footsteps of Churchill, a "wide-ranging" 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.[2] With John Keegan, Holmes also developed the BBC documentary Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle.


Holmes had been suffering from a form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma but eventually died of pneumonia[29] on 30 April 2011, aged 65.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Prof Richard Holmes, acclaimed military historian, dies". BBC News. 30 April 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Obituary: Professor Richard Holmes". The Daily Telegraph. UK. 1 May 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Reisz, Matthew (12 May 2011). "Obituary: Richard Holmes, 1946–2011". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 17 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 44971. p. 11383. 25 November 1969. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  5. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 45245. p. 13398. 4 December 1970. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Historian and Broadcaster to be Honoured by University". University of Leicester. 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 45636. p. 4018. 30 March 1972. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  8. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 46046. p. 9392. 7 August 1973. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  9. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 47545. p. 6548. 26 May 1978. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  10. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 47824. p. 5392. 23 April 1979. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  11. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 48229. p. 8996. 23 June 1980. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49467. p. 11712. 5 September 1983. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  13. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 50527. p. 7097. 23 May 1986. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  14. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 51365. p. 5. 10 June 1988. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 51713. p. 4917. 24 April 1989. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  16. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 52555. p. 8947. 10 June 1991. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  17. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54718. p. 3877. 27 March 1997. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  18. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53601. p. 3179. 28 February 1994. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  19. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 53737. p. 10279. 18 July 1994. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  20. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 56217. p. 6335. 29 May 2001. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  21. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54993. pp. 5–6. 30 December 1997. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  22. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58238. p. 1639. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  23. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55974. pp. 10418–10419. 19 September 2000. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
  24. "HOLMES, Prof. (Edward) Richard". Who's Who. Oxford, England: A & C Black. December 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Professor Richard Holmes". Cranfield University. 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Rebels and Redcoats – Public Broadcasting Service summary
  27. Rebels and Redcoats on IMDb
  28. "Wellington: The Iron Duke: Richard Holmes: Books". Retrieved 22 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Belfast Telegraph: "Tributes to war historian Holmes"

External links