172211 Sgt. Austin Holmes was born on October 12th, 1876, in Longton, Staffordshire, England, the last of three children born to William and Clara (nee Nutt).

In his youth Austin worked as a Potter's handler. The Potteries were the main business of Longton at the time, with hard work and very poor air quality by today's standards.

Austin married Florence Edwards, also of Longton, on Christmas Day, 1898, and they had three children all born in Longton: William, Clarence and Florence. Austin worked as a general labourer, his wife Florence, a potter's handler.

In March 1913, Austin travelled on the Tentonic, via Portland, Maine, and then onto Halifax and Toronto. His wife followed in June 1913 on the Victorian with sons William and Clarence (daughter Florence had died in 1911). Once in Toronto they lived in Dunedin Avenue, where Austin found work as a Driver for the Standard Fuel Company.

After war was declared, Austin attested into the 83rd Battalion, in Toronto on August 21st, 1915, and subsequently trained at the Riverdale Barracks and Niagara. They set sail for Liverpool in May 1916 aboard the S.S. Olympic, sister ship to the infamously ill-fated Titanic and continued training at West Sandling, in Kent.

Austin was amongst 241 men of the 83rd Battalion who were transferred to the 4th CMR in June 1916 as a rebuilding draft after the 4th CMR's huge losses on June 2nd's 'Battle for Mount Sorrel'.

October 26th, 1917, saw the opening of the Second Battle of Passchendaele, an action that would see 4th CMR losses amount to 67 killed, 203 wounded and 21 missing. Sadly Austin was lost on the opening day of that battle. In 1920 his remains were recovered for formal reburial from plot D4 C30 70, which was a reference to a position on the northern end of the Passchendaele Ridge, near Poelcapelle. The point is a little north of a position known as 'Peter Pan', near Wolf Farm, which is about 3km west of Passchendaele. Wolf Farm and Peter Pan were heavily defended by machine guns and pill boxes.

Austin was reburied in Tyne Cot Cemetery, between Passchendaele and Zonnebeke, Belgium, in 1920. He is one of twelve men of the 4th CMR known to lie at rest at Tyne Cot.

Sgt. Austin Holmes is also remembered on the Longton War Memorial, in Staffordshire, England.

Austin's wife, Florence, remained in Toronto with her sons and grandchildren until she passed away in 1968.

Biography and image credits: Kelly Carey.