by Bill Holdsworth

Hundreds of artillery shells turned the thick dense fog into a hellish red glow at 04.20 on the morning of August 8, 1918.

It was the start of the opening phase of the Allied offensive in front of the vital railway junction of Amiens astride the river Somme. The offensive lasted one hundred days; through bluff and stealth fighting became mobile with the use of a British secret weapon; 580 tanks, improved artillery techniques and aerial photography. It marked the end of trench warfare.

It was a battle that ultimately led to the end of the First World War. General Erich Ludendorff smelt a German victory as he rushed seasoned troops following the collapse of the Russia Army on the Eastern front and the signing of Russo-German peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It was not to be, as thousands of his troops surrendered and Ludendorff called it a Black Day for Germany.

My Bradford-born father, known for the last 20 years of his life as “Yorky” Holdsworth, started out in 1914 as a foot soldier in the Yorkshire Light Infantry. He fought through all the apocalyptic hell of Flanders mud and inhuman destruction; major battles from Mons to Ypres, onto the plains of the Somme, Passchendaele and finally into the exaltation of the Battle of Amiens. For my father there was little to exalt about. His brother Edward had been blown up in his arms. He was gassed four times. A man of few words yet he told me that experience as a coal miner had helped him to keep the mustard gas from destroying his lungs and dying in blackish toxic water of shell holes.

My father returned home a broken man. I did not know how broken he was until a few years ago when my Dublin based daughter Claire, seeking background information on his Irish-born mother, Margaret O’Hara, discovered that before he went to war he was married to a Jane Hincliffe in Pudsey Parish church. They had five children. Carrie and Ada (b.1913), James Ackroyd (b.1916), Irene (b.1920) and Lawrence (b.1923). All had died by the time I discovered my father’s other life. Why did he leave his Yorkshire family? What sort of father was he before entering a maelstrom of death?

I was born and named William Holdsworth on March 9, 1929 in Marylebone, London. Always known as Bill, I became a professional architectural engineer, lecturer, and writer. Along with my youngest son, Nick Holdsworth, an author, journalist and film producer the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have invited us to attend the commemoration of the Battle of Amiens on Wednesday, August 8.

‘Yorky” Holdsworth died in 1949 with a hole drilled in his throat to aid his last breath. As a father he had been an angry and abusive; disconnected in poverty and a lack of empathy.

It would be great if from the fields of Picardy, Nick and I could stretch out as people of the same blood-line to great grandsons and great grand-daughters of William Holdsworth and Jane Hincliffe.

Let us become re-connected on this commemorative occasion.

* Contact Bill Holdsworth at

Bill Holdsworth